Watch CBS News

Emanuel Fires McCarthy As Chicago Police Superintendent

Updated 12/1/15 - 5:41 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Saying public confidence in the Police Department "has been shaken and eroded" in the wake of the Laquan McDonald controversy, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced Tuesday that Police Supt. Garry McCarthy is out as the city's top cop.

The mayor said he and McCarthy began discussing the future of the department on Sunday and on Tuesday morning, he asked for the superintendent's resignation. First Deputy Supt. John Escalante will serve as acting superintendent while the Chicago Police Board conducts a national search for a permanent replacement for McCarthy.

CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports the decision to fire him came after three frank discussions which got shorter and shorter each day. From Sunday's first meeting to five minutes at City Hall Monday, to this morning's pink slip summons. The mayor deciding sometime late Monday night or early Tuesday morning that it was time to go their separate ways.

McCarthy's ouster comes a week after Police Officer Jason Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder in the October 2014 shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. Hours after Van Dyke was charged, Emanuel and McCarthy released police dashboard camera video of Van Dyke shooting McDonald 16 times.

The high-profile shooting death of a black teenager by a white police officer sparked several days of protests across the city, including a Black Friday march that shut down several stores on the Magnificent Mile.

"The public trust in the leadership of the department has been shaken and eroded," Emanuel said Tuesday at City Hall, as he announced the formation of a task force to review police accountability, oversight, and training.


Just hours before the mayor's formal announcement of the task force, McCarthy did a series of TV and radio interviews about the McDonald shooting and the mayor's task force plan, and appeared to have grown weary of questions about his future with the department, declining to comment on a Chicago Sun-Times editorial calling for him to be fired.

The mayor said McCarthy has been an "excellent leader of our police department over the past 4 ½ years," but said "now is the time for fresh eyes and new leadership to confront the challenges the department and our community and our city are facing as we go forward."

"Our goal, as I would say to you, is to build the trust and confidence with the public, and at this point and this juncture for the city – given what we're working on – he has become an issue, rather than dealing with the issue, and a distraction," he added.

The mayor said he also shares responsibility for the lack of public confidence in the police.

"I'm responsible. I don't shirk that responsibility. I have taken certain steps prior to this date. I'm taking steps today. As I told you, this is a work in progress in finding a solution. It's not the end of the problem. It's a beginning of a solution towards the problem,"

Emanuel and McCarthy have been under fire for the past week, with activists, protesters, religious leaders, and multiple elected officials – including the City Council Black Caucus, several Latino aldermen, and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle – demanding McCarthy resign or be fired for his handling of the McDonald case.

Preckwinkle was especially harsh in her criticism of McCarthy on Monday, noting that the morning after McDonald's death, the Police Department issued a statement that he had lunged at police with a knife. However, the video of the shooting showed McDonald was walking away from officers when he was shot, and was not lunging or making any sudden moves.

"Either they did not have the video cam recording in their possession, and therefore made the statement without full knowledge of the facts; or they had the facts, and they deliberately distorted the facts to make it look like the shooting was justified. I think that's disgraceful," Preckwinkle said.

After the firing was announced, Preckwinkle released a statement Tuesday afternoon saying, "I have long thought that former Supt. McCarthy's policing strategies were wrong-headed and did nothing to instill trust and confidence – especially in communities of color. The mayor says former Supt. McCarthy's resignation is not the end but a beginning to rebuilding trust and confidence in the Chicago Police Department. I agree that his resignation is just that – a beginning. I want to see what comes next."

One name that surfaced right away as McCarthy's replacement was retiring Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey.

He was once a Chicago police officer and served as deputy commissioner. He also once served as the police commissioner for Washington D.C.

"I know things are a little difficult right now in Chicago to say the least, but it's way too soon to speculate about anything," Ramsey said. "My plans are to retire the first of the year and that hasn't changed."

Rev. Michael Pfleger, who has been one of the loudest voices to call for McCarthy's resignation, said he's glad the superintendent was removed, but he said the problem is deeper than one man.

"Removing McCarthy as the head of the department is not going to solve the core problem. This is a department that needs a total transformation," Pfleger said. "We need a federal prosecutor that subpoenas everybody to find out who knew what and when; and anybody – anybody, from the top to the bottom – that knew hand helped this cover-up needs to go."


McCarthy had repeatedly said he had no plans to step down over the McDonald case, and as recently as last week said he had the mayor's full support; but he was called into the mayor's office Tuesday morning, and left around 8:45 a.m., with a "sour" look on his face, sources said.

Earlier, he had been making the rounds on local TV morning shows to discuss the McDonald case, but canceled further interviews after leaving the mayor's office.

To find a permanent replacement for McCarthy, the Chicago Police Board will conduct a nationwide search to come up with a list of 10 finalists. The board would then winnow that list down to three or four candidates to send to the mayor, who could choose one of the candidates or ask for a new list. The mayor's choice would have to be confirmed by the City Council

The mayor said McCarthy's removal as superintendent was just one of several steps he has made in an effort to restore public trust in the department, including an increase in the number of police body cameras used by the department, and Tuesday's announcement of a police accountability task force.

Emanuel said the task force would help make sure "we are effectively policing the police."

The task force will be co-chaired by five "respected leaders in criminal justice," including three former federal prosecutors, a former top city and state police official, and a former Cook County Public Defender.

• Sergio Acosta, a former federal prosecutor and current a partner at Chicago-based Hinshaw & Culbertson;
• Chicago Inspector General Joe Ferguson, also a federal prosecutor;
• Former Illinois State Police Director and former Chicago Deputy Police Supt. Hiram Grau;
• Chicago Police Board president Lori Lightfoot, a partner at Chicago-based Mayer Brown, a former federal prosecutor, and former head of the Police Department's now-defunct Office of Professional Standards;
• University of Chicago law professor Randolph Stone, director of the Criminal and Juvenile Justice Project Clinic, and a former Cook County Public Defender.

Chicago native and former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who once led the civil rights division of the Justice Department under President Bill Clinton, will serve as a "senior advisor" to the task force.

"These six Chicagoans know, like I know, that the vast majority of our officers are committed to the committed to the communities they serve; but they also know, as I do, that any case of excessive force or abuse of authority undermines the entire force, and the trust we must build with every community in the city," Emanuel said.

The panel will present a report to the mayor and the City Council by the end of March next year.

Critics have raised questions about the independence of the task force. Lightfoot says to give them a chance to prove it.

"All of us are very strong willed folks who I think have a proven track record of independence."

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.