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Goodbye, Garry

Former Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy   Photograph: Zbigniew Bzdak/Chicago Tribune

“It’s not classy to dance and shout when a person loses their job,” a retired Chicago police officer emailed me today, minutes after Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the ousting of Garry McCarthy, the police superintendent. “But in this case I’m not only dancing, I’m singing and juggling.”

Such celebrations greet the ignominious end of the four-year tenure of Chicago’s top cop, hand-picked by Rahm. McCarthy “has become an issue…and a distraction,” the mayor said in his press conference. But the “issue” goes far beyond how the police department handled the killing of Laquan McDonald. The issue is the systemic lack of transparency—even deliberate obfuscation—on the part of not only the department but also the mayor’s office.

The stonewalling, the foot dragging, the high-handed response to Freedom of Information Act requests: It all sounds mighty familiar to David Bernstein and Noah Isackson, who reported Chicago’s award-winning 2014-15 series on crime-statistic funny business. As I wrote back then, “The police chief and the mayor are public servants; you pay their salaries. Shouldn’t you get straight answers in return?”

Emanuel still has a chance to embrace transparency and, by so doing, preserve some sort of legacy. But he’s rapidly running out of time.

Elizabeth Fenner is the editor of Chicago magazine.

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