Newly released emails from the office of Chicago mayor, and former Obama crony, Rahm Emanuel, show a coordinated effort with police and a supposedly independent police review board to “speak with one voice” in order to tamp down public reaction to the death of a black teen at the hands of a police officer.
Thousands of emails regarding the death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald were made public on Thursday after The Associated Press and other media outlets requested them.
McDonald was shot 16 times in October 2014 and the emails show a concern from city officials that the release of the shooting video would cause massive protests and make Chicago look bad nationally, the Associated Press reported.
In early December 2014, Scott Ando, head of the Independent Police Review Authority — publicly touted by the mayor as uniquely independent in its probes of police shootings — singled out the case. He sent an email to the mayor’s deputy chief of staff, Janey Rountree, with a link to a website that raised questions about police accounts of the shooting.
Emanuel spokesman Adam Collins sent a flurry of emails about media inquiries into video of the shooting. His subject line on a Dec. 10, 2014, email to fellow Emanuel staffers included the headline in one Chicago newspaper: “If Chicago police have video of teen shooting, let’s see it: advocates.”
The risk that a publicly released video could blow up not just locally but also nationally was made by lawyers from McDonald’s family, who reached out to the city about a settlement in early 2015, just over a month before Emanuel’s re-election.
Although none of the correspondence directly addressed Emanuel, in a letter on March 6 — after the family’s lawyers saw the video — attorney Jeffrey J. Neslund told city lawyers that the footage would reflect badly on the city.
While the Independent Police Review Authority is supposed to be, as its name suggests, independent from the mayor and police, some of the emails show coordination between the three.
In one such email Collins warned IPRA spokesman Larry Merritt to “tread lightly” when a reporter asked for an interview about the McDonald case in May, the AP reported.
“I completely agree that we need to engage more, but if their focus is on specifics (sic) investigations we should tread very lightly,” Collins wrote. “This is about Laquan McDonald and we should not do interviews about open investigations.”
Social media response to the emails was fierce.
.@deray pretty convenient for Rahm that it broke on NYE. Might be hoping it gets lost in the holiday shuffle. Classic Chicago tactic!
— Travis Bird (@BirdTravisBird) January 1, 2016
Can someone who has done a close read of the emails please compiile a list of all ppl Rahm's office considered friendly partners??
— Ida's Disciple (@prisonculture) January 1, 2016
— Thrilling (@burdentruth) January 1, 2016
— EbenezerWilkesSmith (@the_torff) January 2, 2016
— David McGuire (@DavidMcGuireEsq) January 1, 2016
These emails make it clear that Rahm covered up black kids murder & IPRA allowed it. We need Community Police Accountability Council #cpac
— Sarah Chambers (@Sarah4Justice) January 1, 2016
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