Chicago police superintendent Garry McCarthy was relieved of his duties Tuesday amid criticism of his handling of the 2014 police shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel called McCarthy's presence a road block as the city tries to address its problems with violence. "Given what we are working on, he has become an issue rather than dealing with the issue," Emanuel said. First Deputy Superintendent John Escalante will serve as interim superintendent as the city undergoes a "thorough" search for a replacement.
"This is not the end of the problem, but it is the beginning to the solution of the problem," Emanuel told reporters. "There are systematic challenges that will require sustained reforms. It is a work in progress as we continue to build the confidence and the trust by the public in our police force."
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, McCarthy still had a job as late as yesterday afternoon. But blowback from the department's handling of McDonald's shooting and the death of Tyshawn Lee came to a head Tuesday morning.
McDonald was shot in October 2014 by Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke, but Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez did not bring charges against Van Dyke until more than a year later, when a judge ordered dashcam footage released late last month. McCarthy had previously faced criticism for not being proactive in responding to the endemic violence on the city's south and west sides. Last month, the department's ongoing failures drew headlines in the wake of the death of Tyshawn Lee, a nine-year-old killed by gang members.
In an op-ed published in the New York Times Tuesday, a Columbia University law professor accused the city of a "cover up" in its handling of the McDonald case, noting that the city officials had moved to block footage of the shooting from being released until a judge forced their hand.
"The video of a police shooting like this in Chicago could have buried Mr. Emanuel’s chances for re-election," professor Bernard E. Harcourt wrote. "And it would likely have ended the career of the police superintendent, Garry F. McCarthy."
Harcourt also noted that 86 minutes of video surveillance from a nearby Burger King that would have covered McDonald's shooting has gone "unaccountably missing."
Rob covers business, economics and the environment for Fusion. He previously worked at Business Insider. He grew up in Chicago.