Mayor Rahm Emanuel, under heavy criticism for his handling of a police shooting that resulted in the death of a black teen, apologized on Wednesday for problems with the police department and promised reform.
In a special address to the City Council, the mayor said “I’m sorry” and promised “complete and total reform of the system.”
In an emotional speech with his voice occasionally breaking, the mayor of the nation’s third-largest city reiterated reform steps he has already promised. These include setting up a task force to review police accountability, the appointment of a new head of the agency that handles police misconduct and searching for a new police superintendent.
He aimed particular criticism at the “code of silence” that keeps police officers from reporting misconduct by fellow officers.
Emanuel’s speech comes after two weeks of protests in Chicago following the release of a 2014 police squad car dashboard video showing police officer Jason Van Dyke shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times. Van Dyke, who is white, was charged with first-degree murder late last month.
High-profile killings of black men by mainly white police officers in U.S. cities have prompted a national debate and protests about the use of excessive force by police.
The U.S. Justice Department said on Monday it will launch a civil rights investigation into the city’s police department, examining its use of force, including deadly force, among other issues.
Emanuel acknowledged that some Chicagoans are afraid to cooperate with the police. He said that when African-American parents and grandparents have to instruct their male children to be extremely cautious around law enforcement, “we have a trust problem.”
“No citizen is a second-class citizen in the city of Chicago,” said Emanuel, whose speech was greeted by applause from the council.
Also on Wednesday, a federal judge said he would rule by Jan. 14, 2016, on whether to release video in the shooting death of another black teen. The mother of Cedrick Chatman, 17, has sued the city over Chatman’s death on Jan. 7, 2013. The city has opposed release of video in the case.
Protesters were demonstrating against police misconduct and the city’s response at City Hall on Wednesday.
(Editing by Matthew Lewis)