Mayor Rahm Emanuel Scrambles For Change in Wake of Police Shootings

By Victoria Kim 12/28/15

Chicago mayor urges police to review training protocol for mental health calls in wake of police shootings.

Chicago PD

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel made a public call on Sunday for a change in how the city’s police officers are trained to handle calls involving people who may have mental health problems. 

This happened just a day after the Chicago PD’s latest victims, 55-year-old Bettie Jones and 19-year-old Quintonio LeGrier, were shot and killed by police responding to a domestic disturbance call. The family of LeGrier, a student at Northern Illinois University, said he suffered from mental illness, a CNN affiliate reported. But his mother, Janet Cooksey, said, “He does not have mental issues. He was an honors student.” She asked that they “stop disparaging his character.”

Early Saturday morning, LeGrier’s father called the police, saying the teen was threatening him with a metal bat. The family’s downstairs neighbor, Jones, answered the door when police arrived. Officers allege that LeGrier charged down the stairs with the bat, causing police to open fire, shooting and killing both LeGrier and Jones. Both deaths have been ruled homicides, according to the medical examiner, while an independent police review authority investigates.

Emanuel directed the police department and the Independent Police Review Authority to identify the “deficiencies in the current training, and determine what steps can be taken immediately to address them.”

The mayor is under a lot of heat in the wake of the most recent series of police shootings in Chicago. The city has been rallying for change—hordes of protestors marched through the city on Christmas Eve, demanding the mayor’s resignation. Their outrage was set off by the police shootings of Laquan McDonald, Ronald Johnson, Philip Coleman—and now LeGrier and Jones.

Ronald Johnson, 25, and Laquan McDonald, 17, were both shot and killed October 2014, on separate occasions. Dash cam footage shows both Johnson and McDonald either running or walking away from police before they were shot. McDonald was shot up to 16 times—most of the bullets were unloaded by Officer Jason Van Dyke while the teen was limp on the ground, CNN reports. Van Dyke has been charged with first-degree murder, but no charges were filed against Officer George Hernandez, who shot and killed Johnson.

Philip Coleman, 38, died in jail after police refused to take him to a mental hospital. The University of Chicago graduate was arrested December 2012 for attacking his 69-year-old mother in a psychotic episode. His family had asked that he be taken to a mental hospital, making police aware of his mental condition. But they refused. He was taken to jail, where several hours after his arrest, he was needlessly Tasered up to 15 times by police and rendered unconscious after an officer placed him in a chokehold. He was then taken to the hospital, where he died from an allergic reaction to a sedative, according to the autopsy. The investigation into his death is ongoing.

The Justice Department announced this month that it’s launching a civil rights investigation into the use of force by Chicago police. Emanuel welcomed the investigation, saying it is in the city’s self-interest. “We will be a better city for it,” he said.

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