An outside review of the Laquan McDonald shooting was supposed to provide an independent and unbiased report on the way Chicago police handled the death of the 17-year-old, but a trove of newly released emails shows the review board was actually in close contact with city officials all along.
McDonald was shot by officer Jason Van Dyke in 2014. Last year, video of the shooting showing McDonald walking away from police vehicles before he was shot multiple times was released and Van Dyke was charged with murder. He's currently awaiting trial.
A public records request led to the release of thousands of emails sent by public officials in the months leading up to those charges and shows that officials from the Independent Police Review Authority and the mayor's office were communicating back and forth, The Associated Press reports.
The mayor touted the independent review authority as "uniquely independent," the report states, but the emails show there wasn't much distance between the entities.
Some key statements from the AP story:
In December 2014, Scott Ando, head of the review authority 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.
Though the Independent Police Review Authority, or IPRA, is supposed to maintain a distance from police and the mayor’s office, a March 11 email from Ando asks about forwarding witness interview transcripts to the law department “for their use in settlement negotiations with” the McDonald family.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel spokesman Adam Collins also sent emails that went to the review board and others.
In May, Collins cautioned IPRA spokesman Larry Merritt to “tread lightly” when a reporter asked for an IPRA interview about the case.
“Can anyone do an interview? I think we need to accept some of these opportunities,” Merritt wrote in a May 26 email to top Emanuel aides and Ando. “These stories are getting done with or without us.”
Collins responded: “I completely agree that we need to engage more, but if their focus is on specifics (sic) investigations we should tread very lightly. This is about Laquan McDonald and we should not do interviews about open investigations.”
Also in May, Collins complained to colleagues that IPRA did not follow his recommendation on how to respond to a TV station about McDonald.
Protesters have been calling for Emanuel's resignation since the charges against Van Dyke were filed. Emanuel has said that he hadn't seen the video of the shooting before it was released publicly.
The City of Chicago approved a $5 million settlement with McDonald's family shortly after Emanuel won re-election last year.