Why voters are calling for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to be recalled

Evidence in the trial of Darius Pinex, a black man shot and killed by police in 2011 during a traffic stop, suggests that Chicago's law department concealed evidence to protect city officials. Now, activists want to oust Mayor Emanuel.

Jim Young/Reuters
Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy (l.) stands with Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel (c.) during a recruitment graduation ceremony in Chicago, Ill., April 21, 2014. Mr. McCarthy was fired December 1, after it took 13 months to charge a white police officer with the shooting death of a black teenager.

Amid an unraveling scandal that involves the fatal police shooting of a young black man in 2011, grassroots activists in Chicago are calling for Mayor Rahm Emanuel's resignation.

Since the video of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald’s death at the hands of Chicago police was released in November, against the mayor's wishes, Mr. Emanuel has fought hard to demonstrate his commitment to justice to the city’s vocal protesters.

But despite his reform efforts and firing of the city’s police superintendent, Emanuel, a Democrat, continues to face criticism from his constituents and now, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Governor Rauner, a Republican, said he was "very disappointed" with how Emanuel has handled police misconduct cases. He added that if he had the chance, he would support legislation that allows voters to recall the mayor.

The current firestorm around Emanuel stems from the mayor's efforts to suppress the video of Laquan's death, which clearly shows a white police officer shooting the teenager 16 times including multiple shots fired after the young man was already on the ground. The incident occurred in October 2014, but the video was not made public – and no charges were filed – until November 2015, thirteen months later. The officer involved, Jason Van Dyke, was charged with first-degree murder just hours before the video's release.

Now, new evidence brought to light during a trial relating to the death of another black man killed by police implicates not just a single officer, but the city's entire justice department.

In a ruling on a lawsuit brought against the city by the family of Darius Pinex, who was shot and killed by police during a traffic stop in 2011, US District Judge Edmond Chang said a Chicago attorney "intentionally concealed" a critical piece of evidence relating to the shooting.

In the officers’ account of Mr. Pinex’ death, they said they stopped his car because it matched the description of a car involved in a shooting they had just heard about over their police radio. It was when Pinex refused orders and put his car in reverse that they shot him.

But records later showed that the officers weren't listening to a police radio channel at all.

"It shows the city hasn't just fought to protect officers; it also fights tooth and nail to protect its lawyers," said Steve Greenberg, an attorney for the Pinex family. "I don't think they cared that [Pinex] got killed, they didn't care what the truth was and they didn't care they cheated [with the evidence]."

Following Monday’s court opinion, city attorney Jordan Marsh has resigned. Emanuel has yet to disclose his plan of action in reviewing the accusations against Mr. Marsh, though his legal adviser Stephen Patton "is going through the pieces right now in that area."

According to lawyer Torreya Hamilton, Judge Chang also sanctioned the city's law department for possibly concealing evidence in her case that accused police of false arrest and illegal search. The city’s problem, she said, is more than just one bad lawyer.

"There is a culture there of, 'We are protecting the good guys, police, against bad guys and so we should be able to bend the rules to protect them," Ms. Hamilton said. "I have seen time and time again that [city lawyers] are not held to the same rules."

Given that there is currently no law that enables the recall of his leadership, Emanuel’s job is not in immediate jeopardy. He said he will not be stepping down.

This report contains material from The Associated Press.

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