Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel tried to reset how he’s handled the most severe crisis of his tenure, giving a determined and emotional speech to the City Council pledging to end Chicago’s entrenched practice of police brutality and apologizing for failing to fix the deep-seated issue sooner, the Chicago Tribune reports. The 40-minute address served as a high-profile platform for Emanuel to tackle head-on a complicated series of challenges surrounding race relations and a deeply rooted lack of trust many minorities in Chicago have in the police. “We are here today because Chicago is facing a defining moment on the issues of crime and policing, and the even larger issues of truth, justice and race,” Emanuel said. “We can either be defined by what we have failed to do — or what we choose to do.” The response to Emanuel’s promises of swift action and a better police force reflected the credibility gap the mayor faces.
Normally compliant aldermen offered little more than cautious optimism, and hundreds of protesters dismissed the remarks and continued to call on him to resign. Emanuel condemned a police department “code of silence” that encourages cover-ups, though his lawyers tried to wipe out a jury verdict that found such a code exists. The mayor insisted the city needed “better oversight of our police officers,” though he’s defended the department while signing off on millions of dollars in police brutality settlements. The mayor apologized for the Laquan McDonald shooting “that happened on my watch.” Alderman Anthony Napolitano said it’s not fair to pillory police officers for trying to deal with the situation. “You have to remember we’re not dealing with just a normal city. This isn’t Mayberry. This is a tough city,” said Napolitano, a former officer. “There’s a war going on out there. And a lot of you will pretend like you’ve seen it or you’ve read it, or you’ve watched it on TV. But a lot of you have not been out there and have not seen it.”