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After Shooting Video Comes To Light, Chicago Police Under Pressure

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Laquan McDonald got more attention this week than he did when he was shot to death 14 months ago. A firestorm was set off by the recent release of the October, 2014 police video that shows the teenager, who had a small knife, walking away from police, who then fired 16 bullets into him. Mayor Rahm Emanuel fired his police superintendent and now says he'll welcome federal investigators to look into Laquan McDonald's death, said he paid a $5 million dollar settlement to the McDonald family last April. Questions have been raised as to if the video was kept under wraps for so long because the mayor was up for re-election. Chicago's the Reverend Jesse Jackson joins us. Reverend, thanks so much for joining us.

JESSE JACKSON: Good morning.

SIMON: Mayor Emanuel made his police commissioner step down. Do you think the mayor should resign too?

JACKSON: It's premature to say that. A full federal investigation with subpoena power will determine the fate of persons of interest, which includes the mayor and the state's attorney and police other than Jason. One police shot Laquan McDonald 16 time, but nine others witnessed it. And their report of the killing was in contradiction to what the tape revealed. So it's not just the chief; it's the culture of cover-up. Now there's the Ron Johnson case, who was shot in the head by the police eight days before Laquan McDonald was killed. So that - we need to unearth the tapes and the culture of cover-up.

SIMON: Yeah, the Jason you referred to is Jason Van Dyke, the police officer who's been charged with murder. The mayor says he didn't see the police video until it was released last week. Do you believe that?

JACKSON: Well, it's difficult to believe. On the one hand, if he did not see it and paid that $5 million dollars, it is grossly irresponsible. I mean, you're laying off teachers - 5,000 teachers - and paying off $5 million dollars sight unseen. That's a lot to take. And why didn't the police chief, who no doubt saw it, and why didn't the state's attorney, who no doubt saw it, share it with the mayor? At least they should have if they did not. And that's why - and the investigation will determine, on the oath, who saw what and when.

SIMON: State's Attorney Alvarez says that they didn't release the video because she was concerned it might have hindered her investigation. And now they have charged Jason Van Dyke with murder. Is it possible she was just acting responsibly to protect her case?

JACKSON: No, as a matter of fact, the release of the tape is what drove a trial in the first - there would not have been a trial without the release of the tape. And that's what the cameras have revealed, the need for trials, the need for all due process. In the case of Walter Scott in South Carolina, for example, the police report was he was attacking them. But the film showed he was running from them. And his accomplice - the other police - lied as well. So the tapes are a reason to have trials 'cause without the tapes, this thing has been covered up for 13 months. And wouldn't have that - wouldn't have not still be covered up were it not for the release of the tape.

SIMON: Reverend Jackson, just since Thanksgiving, at least 10 people have died in violent homicides on the streets of Chicago, many of them young African-Americans. I don't have to tell you how urgent that situation is. What do you believe should be done to try and stop this much larger loss of life?

JACKSON: Well, let me say that while the focus on Laquan McDonald, 450 have been killed plus the nine this year - another 460 have been killed - 2,700 shot. Guns and drugs and jobs - there is a connection between our trade policy and our lack of an urban policy. Beyond the issue of policing and justice, we need a White House Congress on violence and urban reconstruction. We cannot settle for being three times more unemployed than the rest of Chicago, for example.

SIMON: We've just - I'm afraid we've got to cut this off now, Reverend. But I thank you for making the time for us.

JACKSON: Well, thank you, sir.

SIMON: The Reverend Jesse Jackson. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.