Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday took responsibility for last year's fatal shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald and called for an end to what the mayor said was a "blue code of silence" within the city's police department.
"What happened on October 20, 2014 should have never happened," Emanuel said in a special city hall meeting Wednesday morning. "I am the mayor. As I said the other day I own it. I take responsibility for what happened because it happened on my watch."
"If we're going to start the healing process, the first step in that journey is my step, and I'm sorry," he said.
The mayor pledged to fix what he called decades of police corruption and the "shoot first and ask questions later" practice which he said plagues Chicago and the rest of the country.
Emanuel described the black teenager's killing as avoidable and said that it could have been contained and managed.
"Until the point where police officer Jason Van Dyke got on to the scene and got out of his car, this was a routine situation," Emanuel said. "Situations like this are defused and resolved all the time without the loss of life."
Emanuel's speech came Wednesday as opposition continues to build against the mayor.
Hours later, protesters began to gather outside of City Hall and two fellow Democrats introduced a bill at the state capitol that would make it possible to recall Emanuel in an election.
The bill, HB 4356, was introduced by La Shawn K. Ford and co-sponsored by Mary E. Flowers, a representative for Ford confirmed to BuzzFeed News.
Whether or not the bill could garner enough support to be approved has yet to be seen, but a recent poll showed support for the Chicago mayor has declined significantly, with a disapproval rating of 67%, and just more than half of those polled in favor of removing him from office.
Under Emanuel, the rate of officer-involved shootings has neither dramatically increased or declined in Chicago.
According to published data from Chicago's Independent Police Review Association, since Emanuel took office in 2011, there have been 234 officer-involved shootings in the city, resulting in 67 fatalities. Just under 80% of the 183 people shot were identified in reports as black.
According to the IPRA data, Emanuel's police force is shooting 4.1 people per month and killing 1.175 people. Compared to data from the previous administration, these numbers are decreasing slightly; From Sep. 2007 to 2010 police shot 4.375 people per month and killed 1.5 people. However, the number of black people shot by police has increased slightly under Emanuel's mayoralty to 3.21 per month, compared to 2.95 people for the previous administration. (IPRA has only published officer-involved shooting totals dating back for September 2007).
The mayor's address comes a day after the Chicago police department released a video showing police officers using a taser on 38-year-old Philip Coleman while he was in custody in December 2012, and then dragging him out of his cell in handcuffs. The man was taken to a hospital where he later died. An autopsy report said he died from an allergic reaction to a sedative doctors administered.
"I do not see how the manner in which Mr. Coleman was physically treated could possibly be acceptable," Emanuel said in a statement Tuesday. "Something is wrong here – either the actions of the officers who dragged Mr. Coleman, or the policies of the department."
This was the third video Chicago officials released in less than a month of police-involved deaths dating back more than a year. Following the McDonald video, State's Attorney Anita Alvarez released a video of a police officer fatally shooting 25-year-old Ronald Johnson III. Alvarez said she will not file criminal charges against the officer because Johnson was running toward a police vehicle with a gun in his hand.
On Wednesday, a federal judge said he would not order the release of videos that show a police officer shooting and killing 17-year-old Cedrick Chatman, citing a protective order in an ongoing civil rights lawsuit by the victim's mother, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Rebuilding the trust between communities and the police department, as well as pursuing justice on the issue of police misconduct, are the mayor's top priorities, Emanuel said. He also said he realizes the prolonged investigation into McDonald's death and the delay in releasing the dashcam video of the shooting led to the public's mistrust.
"When parents tell children not to congregate on corners, out of fear of encountering police, what does that say," Emanuel asked. "We have a trust problem.
Emanuel also called on the police department to address a problem "at the very heart of the policing profession."
"There is a tendency to ignore, deny, and in some cases to cover up the bad actions of a colleague or colleagues," Emanuel said. "No officers should be allowed to behave as if they are above the law, just because they are responsible for upholding the law."
Speaking passionately, loudly, and often time slamming his hand against the podium, Emanuel said the city's one job is to do everything in its power to right the wrong of McDonald's "avoidable" death.
During Emanuel's speech, protesters gathered at city hall, calling for the mayor's resignation.
According to multiple reports, protesters said Emanuel's speech can't fix the years-old police corruption. Protesters planned a citywide walkout for Wednesday afternoon, calling for an investigation into the mayor's administration.
Mary Ann Georgantopoulos is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
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Michael Hayes is a senior reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
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