A former Chicago Inspector General, Joe Ferguson, penned a letter to “Clear” Rahm Emanuel of wrongdoing in Laquan McDonald shooting — an act that means little — especially when you examine Emanuel’s actions as Mayor.

By Delmarie Cobb, Chicago Color

Thank you, Joe

Thank you Joe Ferguson for your letter supporting the confirmation of former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel for U.S. Ambassador to Japan. Also, for clearing up the timeline and subsequent police reform measures implemented by Emanuel.

Of course, knowing how Chicago’s City Hall works, Emanuel would have plausible deniability baked into any chain of command when it comes to who knew what and when about the murder of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald by Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke. So, I have one response to Chicago’s former inspector general’s letter:

“I wouldn’t believe it if I told it myself,” as my mother would say.

Rahm emanuel looking out on chicago skyline

Six years ago this Thanksgiving weekend, I wrote a column supporting the protestors who were contemplating taking over North Michigan Avenue in response to the release of dashcam video showing Van Dyke shooting McDonald 16 times.

Who would imagine that in less than 10 years, Chicagoans are witnessing a city that once was the land of opportunity for Blacks from the South become a death sentence for far too many of the city’s most vulnerable residents. Meanwhile, the fortunes of the former failed mayor continue to multiply.

Watching Emanuel introduce his children at the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations confirmation hearing, all I could think of was how many Chicago children like McDonald won’t have the opportunity to be a Navy intelligence officer, or work for CNN or attend Princeton. How many of the city’s children have been killed by police? How many of the city’s children have been killed by gang violence? How many of the city’s children never returned to school after their high school buildings closed? How many of the city’s children missed out on getting the mental health care they need after half the clinics were shuttered?

Despite his testimony last month, there’s no evidence Emanuel took away any lessons from his time as Chicago’s mayor.

“I made a number of changes that dealt with oversight, accountability,” said Emanuel. “And it is clear to me the changes were inadequate to the level of distrust. They were on the best marginal; I thought I was addressing the issue, and I clearly missed the level of distrust and skepticism that existed, and that’s on me.”

Yet, in September 2013, Emanuel apologized for the Jon Burge era—calling it a “dark chapter.” Burge was the former CPD commander accused of torturing African American men into false confessions for murder and rape. While Burge’s deeds were revealed during Mayor Richard M. Daley’s administration, Emanuel was aware for years that the cost to taxpayers would exceed $100 million in wrongful convictions and lawsuits. So, there’s no way he “…clearly missed the level of distrust and skepticism that existed….”

Following the McDonald revelation when then Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said, “Trust in the police is broken,” and called for a U.S. Justice Department civil rights investigation of the Police Department’s use of excessive and deadly force, police shootings and whether Chicago has a pattern of discriminatory policing, the mayor’s initial reaction was to call her advice “misguided.” Even though, hours earlier, he had just fired CPD Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy.

All along the way, Emanuel had many opportunities to become a national leader on police reform. In 2016, 5th Ward Ald. Leslie Hairston introduced a 40-page ordinance to replace the Independent Police Review Authority with a truly independent police oversight agency.

“An Independent Civilian Police Monitor is needed, because you can’t keep shuffling the deck with the same people and call that accountability,” explained Hairston. “You must put something in place that is meaningful in that it’s supported by a budget, there’s a revenue source and there’s an opportunity for input by the people of Chicago.”

Hairston’s ordinance was sent to committee, where legislation goes to die. Instead, Emanuel created the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, which we see is only as independent and progressive as the person heading it.

In March 2018, when the Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability and the Civilian Police Accountability Council introduced ordinances to establish a civilian board for police oversight, Emanuel once again ordered his public safety chair to send them to committee. It wasn’t until this year that a compromise ordinance by both community groups passed the City Council.

Under Emanuel, city funding for CeaseFire was allowed to end. The organization, which uses former gang members to deter violence, watched as homicides went from a 75% reduction to a 136% increase in some wards from 2014 to 2017. CeaseFire, now known as Cure Violence, was a leader in identifying gang violence as a public health crisis.

In 2017, Emanuel had a chance to allocate $5 million to CeaseFire for violence prevention from $15 million in unspent property tax rebate money. Instead, he wanted to use the money to fix up parks, buy police body cameras, boost after-school programs and plant trees. Disappointingly, only four Black aldermen voted against Emanuel and for preventing violence.

My objection to Emanuel becoming Japan’s next ambassador was never based solely on the McDonald cover-up. In my Washington DC statement, imploring senators to Reject Rahm, I referenced the police and city’s actions were part of a long trail of tears under Emanuel’s watch.

Personally, I don’t think we should reward Emanuel. I don’t think we should rehabilitate his reputation. I don’t think he should ever hold a position of public trust again.

Through his policies, Emanuel showed nothing but disdain for the city’s Black, brown and poor residents. We are all paying for the decades of disinvestment in these communities by Daley and Emanuel. Joe Ferguson, who had a front-row seat through both administrations, knows this better than anyone.