In the wake of controversy and scandal, calls for resignations, coup d’etats and other forms of leadership change are standard. Sometimes, they are knee-jerk, let-the-heads-roll expressions of emotion that soon fizzle out as other stories or priorities take precedence.
Or, if they persist, those protests may actually influence action, which can range from a symbolic gesture designed to placate the masses to a much-needed fresh start that is more substantive than symbolic.
As the Laquan McDonald murder-and-cover up unfolds, it’s clear that neither Chicago Superintendent Garry McCarthy nor Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has the moral authority to lead in a productive way.
What they knew, and when they knew it, and how they decided to conduct themselves when they became aware of and partook in the McDonald murder/cover-up will all eventually surface. In light of that inevitable disclosure of their forehead-smacking failures of leadership, this excerpt from a well-stated editorial admonition by the Chicago Tribune will ring hollow:
“It’s not enough for Emanuel and McCarthy to urge calm. It’s not enough to talk about the increased training and supervision that McCarthy says have dramatically reduced the number of police shootings on his watch. The mayor and his police chief must commit to a thorough examination and overhaul of the disciplinary process. That must come with a pledge for greater transparency, so the public can see for itself how complaints against cops are resolved.”
Wonderful sentiments, but neither Emanuel nor McCarthy is capable of conducting “a thorough examination and overhaul of the disciplinary process.”
Such an overhaul would underscore just how pitifully they have fared on those fronts to this point. An about-face would expose the extent to which they have operated, through omission or commission of duty, at cross-purposes with that kind of authentic transparency.
Their staunch opposition to transparency, inherited through the city’s longstanding me-first, public-be-damned culture, is fuel that has enabled egregious misconduct by the likes of Van Dyke for decades.
Having covered corrupt government officials in my years as a journalist—particularly the brazen ineptitude and malfeasance of elected scalawags in Cicero, Ill. about a decade ago—I have seen how some characters quite adroit at insulating themselves from liability and political fallout.
What follows, then, isn’t a prescription of what should happen—the mayor and the police superintendent should step down from their posts as a result of their respective derelictions of duty and failures of leadership.
Instead, here’s my prognostication on what will happen:
McCarthy will be the first to go–likely by year’s end. He is the leader most closely responsible for the atrocities wrought not only by Jason Van Dyke in shooting McDonald (16 times) without provocation, but also by the growing lineup of fellow cops who tried to bury Van Dyke’s reprehensible misconduct.
Emanuel will ride out the final three-plus years of his term, but won’t run for re-election.
His political career, which peaked during his first term as mayor, is on an unrelenting downward slope. He will go back to being a behind-the-scenes political operative and deal-maker, where his strengths lie anyhow. Sadly, because Emanuel’s term goes until 2019, there appears to be little prospect that genuine, enduring change to how police and other city departments operate will occur before then.
Meanwhile, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez has no chance of being re-elected, and likely won’t survive the March 2016 primary. She can talk all she wants about the “complex” factors that led to her office’s investigation taking more than a year before charging Van Dyke with first-degree murder, but few intelligent people are buying it. Her campaign cycle isn’t as convenient as Emanuel’s, who squeaked into a second term that would never have been possible had the McDonald murder not been so assiduously covered up by Emanuel’s minions.
But shed no tears for McCarthy, Emanuel or even Alvarez. All will land on their feet, one way or another—in haunting, tragic contrast to the manner in which Laquan McDonald was upended by the first of those 16 senseless bullets.