Jim Young / Reuters

Chicago mayor says police force needs a 'cultural change'

Statement follows firing of police superintendent after public outcry over the police killing of a black teen

Chicago's 12,000-member police force, one of the largest in the country and one of the most prone to using lethal force, needs a cultural change that will take time, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Wednesday.

Emanuel fired Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy on Tuesday, saying it was time for "fresh eyes and new leadership," and has launched a search for a replacement, following protests over the police killing of Laquan McDonald, a 17-year-old African-American teenager, which was caught on video.

Jason Van Dyke, the white police officer who shot McDonald on Oct. 20 of last year, has been charged with murder and is out on bail.

The U.S. Attorney's Office said it is still actively investigating the case. Emanuel said Tuesday that the federal probe includes whether local authorities investigated the shooting properly.

Chicago has one of the highest murder rates in the U.S., with some 400 people killed every year in gun violence. And police have shot more than 50 people per year over the past seven years — a figure significantly higher than the number of police shootings in Los Angeles, New York and Houston.

"We have had some reforms, but not to the level that has to change a department and a culture, and we also have to make a sustained effort to make the cultural change in attitude," Emanuel said during an interview live streamed on Politico’s website

Emanuel, who was elected to a second term in April, said in the interview that he had no plans to step down over the shooting and its aftermath.

The mayor has named a task force to make recommendations by March 31 on boosting independent oversight of police misconduct and making sure officers with repeated complaints are evaluated more quickly.

Officer Van Dyke had at least 20 complaints of misconduct against him during his tenure, but was never disciplined, according to the Invisible Institute transparency group.

The video footage of McDonald being shot 16 times by Van Dyke contradicts initial accounts police officials gave.

Pat Camden, at the time a police union spokesman, described McDonald lunging at officers before shooting began. A police statement just after the shooting said McDonald refused to drop a knife and "continued to approach the officers." Initial media reports based on police information suggested McDonald was killed by a single shot to the chest.

But the video shows McDonald walking down the middle of a four-lane street. He then appears to veer away as officer Van Dyke nopens fire. The video seems to show McDonald with something in his hand. Prosecutors said a 3-inch blade recovered from the scene had been folded into the handle.

In a phone interview Tuesday evening, Dean Angelo Sr., president of the Fraternal Order of Police Chicago Lodge 7, agreed that McDonald did not appear to lunge. But he also said McDonald seemed to "square his shoulders" slightly toward Van Dyke, which Angelo said Van Dyke may have perceived as a threat.

Wire services

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