As part of his new plan to restore the credibility of Chicago’s law enforcement, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that the public will have a chance to see and hear all audio and video recordings of officer-involved shootings and alleged misconduct. In response to backlash about the Chicago Police Department’s (CPD) refusal to release such recordings, the city must now do so within 60 days of when an incident occurs.
Emanuel’s decision comes more than two months after the video of Laquan Mcdonald’s shooting set off a firestorm. The footage showed Officer Jason Van Dyke shooting the 17-year-old 16 times in 30 seconds, and leaders fought to keep it hidden from the public. The city begrudgingly released the footage 400 days after the shooting occurred, and after the a federal judge ordered officials to do so. Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez filed charges against Van Dyke that same day.
Chicago has since released the shooting videos of 25-year-old Ronald Johnson and 17-year-old Cedrick Chatman — both of whom were shot while fleeing from officers. Both videos were kept from the public for over a year.
Last month, DNAinfo released a damning investigation of the CPD, which has a history of damaging audio recordings and equipment, validating activists’ concerns about the police’s ability to manipulate incriminating evidence.
The city’s leaders have been slammed for waiting so long to publicize the footage. Now, they have to release all recordings within 60 days, although the police department can opt for a 30-day extension.
The new policy is one of many that Emanuel has adopted in the past few months, amid calls for his resignation. In December, he launched a police task force to reform the CPD, which has long covered up police brutality. He fired the department’s leader, Superintendent Garry McCarthy, expanded the body cam program, and appointed a new head of the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA).
“Restoring trust between our police and the communities they’re sworn to serve is an essential part of our City’s public safety efforts, and this is an important step as we continue that work,” Emanuel said during his announcement on Tuesday. “Simply put, the longstanding policy the City followed for decades is out of date and this new policy strikes a better balance of ensuring transparency for the public while also ensuring any criminal or disciplinary investigations are not compromised.”
Back in December, he wrote that the McDonald video wasn’t released because “protecting the integrity of those investigations was critical.” Earlier this month, Alvarez doubled-down on the decision to keep the video hidden from public view, saying “no mistakes were made.”