Soon after a Chicago police officer killed Laquan McDonald in a hail of 16 gunshots, the City Council wrapped up a new contract with the police union. It was lauded by aldermen as a sign of cooperation between Mayor Rahm Emanuel and union leaders as the city faced financial problems. What wasn't mentioned, the Wall Street Journal reports, was the added protections it provides officers who are under investigation for misconduct, including new rules for interrogations and video evidence. Nationally, such protections have been building in union contracts and state law for decades. They are starting to be challenged in the wake of high-profile police killings of civilians, which sparked calls for greater accountability.
The release of a graphic video showing the shooting of McDonald, 17, has Chicago aldermen re-examining the police contract and calling for changes in its disciplinary sections. Scrutiny of the police intensified after a double fatal shooting by officers, including a 55-year-old black woman who was mistakenly hit. Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is pushing for an overhaul of Maryland's so-called officers' bill of rights. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo blocked legislation that would have allowed officers to negotiate rules for discipline, preserving New York's rare status as a state that doesn't allow such issues be subject to bargaining. Activists tied to Black Lives Matter, which grew out of the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014, launched a campaign to put a focus on police contracts. “The wake-up call is there. It is unfortunate it took a kid being executed,” said Chicago Alderman John Arena, referring to the McDonald shooting.