CHICAGO -- Former Chicago police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, a casualty of the fallout after the release of the video of the Laquan McDonald shooting, said Monday the video never should have been made public while a criminal investigation was still under way.
Addressing the City Club of Chicago, McCarthy said he was never asked for his recommendation on the video's release but defended the withholding of evidence, arguing to do so risked compromising the integrity of the ongoing probe.
"There's not an attorney that I've spoken to who likes the idea of having evidence in a case that's being prosecuted or pending being released to the public right now," he told a couple of hundred people at a downtown restaurant.
The speech marked the most extensive public comments by McCarthy since Mayor Rahm Emanuel fired him in early December, a little more than a week after the court-ordered release of the video of McDonald being shot 16 times rocked the city. He has been a low-key figure for the most part since then.
McCarthy was also critical of the move to seek the firings of other officers at the McDonald shooting while a criminal probe continues, saying their credibility as potential witnesses at Officer Jason Van Dyke's murder trial has been tainted.
"This is compromising the possibility of getting a conviction," he said. "And then what's going to happen? There's going to be a lot of anger. Long-standing policies are out the window, and mixed messages are being sent."
But McCarthy's remarks appeared to ignore that the officers themselves are under criminal investigation since their accounts of what happened the night of McDonald's shooting differed sharply with what the video showed.
Later, during a question-and-answer session, McCarthy passed on taking shots at Emanuel, particularly on whether he had conspired to keep the McDonald video from the public during his re-election campaign.
Saying he was not "a conspiracy theorist," McCarthy said the mayor had no control over the Cook County state's attorney's investigation of the shooting.
"The mayor did not have the capacity to prevent that video from going out there," he said.
At one point during his speech, he appeared to joke about the circumstances of his firing, saying, "Politically speaking, you're either on the bus or under."
"No, that is not a backhanded reference to anything that may or may not have happened to me," he added.
McCarthy's remarks centered on the upside-down world he sees in which police are increasingly the bad guys and the criminals are getting a pass for not complying with the law.
He said many of the controversial uses of lethal force by police in incidents across the country -- many captured on video -- started with people not complying with the lawful orders of officers.
He said this anti-police sentiment is "empowering criminals" and creating what he called "a culture of legitimizing noncompliance" with the law.
McCarthy said the furor over the McDonald shooting and a series of other police-involved shootings that have drawn national attention has caused officers to second-guess themselves while working in the streets. He made a link between that pullback and Chicago's spike in violence.
He also pointed to the U.S. Justice Department's probe of Police Department practices and its impact on fighting crime.
"Why would you stop anyone when the Department of Justice is here looking for civil rights violations?" he asked.
McCarthy defended how officers under his watch used to document their street stops with so-called "contact cards," saying they weren't racially profiling but reacting to crime patterns in heavily minority neighborhoods. Beginning this year, a more complex, lengthier form needs to be filled out because of a new state law and concerns from the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois.
McCarthy said filling out the complicated forms was akin to conducting a robbery investigation.
He also took a shot at the media during his speech, pointing to a recent Gallup poll showing that trust in news organizations was at a new low, yet he said reporters are criticizing police on trust issues.
He said the media too often has "an obsession for creating the news rather than reporting the news."
McCarthy also took a swipe at state lawmakers for passing a law that requires officers wear body cameras while ignoring calls to toughen gun laws.
"And this year, we've already got more than 3,000 people shot," he said.
Body cameras will not be the panacea people are hoping for, he said.
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