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Rahm Asked Cincinnati Mayor's Help As Fed Probe Of Chicago Police Loomed

By  Heather Cherone and Tanveer Ali | December 23, 2016 6:38am 

 Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (left) and Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (left) and Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley.
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Facebook/Rahm Emanuel; Facebook/Cincinnati Mayor John Crawley

CITY HALL — At the height of the outcry after the release of video showing a Chicago Police officer fatally shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, Mayor Rahm Emanuel sought advice from Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley, who had been lauded for reforming his city's police department, private emails reveal.

Emanuel's decision to consult Cranley via his private email account was revealed Wednesday when he released 3,000 pages of emails as part of a settlement with the Better Government Association, a watchdog group.

Emanuel first emailed Cranley Dec. 2, 2015, and asked him to call him amid growing demands for an investigation by the U.S. Justice Department into whether Chicago Police routinely violate residents' civil rights.

Despite growing pressure, Emanuel initially resisted pleas for a federal investigation, saying on Dec. 2, 2015, such a probe would be "misguided" and a task force would do a better job.

Cranley urged Emanuel to welcome a federal investigation in an effort to "get ahead of it and try to establish some boundaries."

Cranley told Emanuel he had no choice, especially after presidential candidate Hillary Clinton endorsed the federal probe.

On Dec. 3, 2015, Emanuel dropped his opposition to the federal investigation — which is still ongoing — and said he "welcomed the engagement of the Justice Department."

Cranley told Emanuel that was "good."

"Inviting them in with open arms will make it a lot more likely that you can limit this scope," Cranley wrote Dec. 4. "You obviously want to use your influence to find the friendliest crew."

He pointed out that the city of Cincinnati benefited after officials welcomed a federal investigation after a five-day riot followed the death of a 19-year-old man fleeing police in 2001, when Cranley was a member of the Cincinnati City Council.

"The fact that we invited them (weren't imposed upon us) created a number of opportunities or our mayor at the time to push back when the feds were getting too intrusive," Cranley wrote.

Cranley also counseled Emanuel on how to deal with African-American members of the Police Department.

"Best advice: keep black cop organization close," Cranley wrote Dec. 2, 2015, telling Emanuel he "inherited a bad chief who happened to be black" when he became mayor.

Cranley, who is white, said he courted the Cincinnati Police Department's African-American organization, and when he had its support, he moved to fire the chief. No sustained outcry ensued, Cranley said.

"If [African American police groups] say certain reforms are needed, not a bad group to stand with," Cranley wrote.

As the scandal over the death of McDonald swirled, Emanuel fired Police Supt. Garry McCarthy on Dec. 1, 2015.

Rejecting three finalists picked by the police board to be the city's top cop, Emanuel hand-picked Eddie Johnson in March to lead the department. The 27-year Police Department veteran is a member of the board of directors of the Chicago metropolitan chapter of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement.

As Emanuel struggled to find his footing during the scandal, he had good reason to look to Cranley for advice.

Cincinnati, which "once served as a prime example of broken policing, now stands as a model of effective reform," The Atlantic declared in May 2015.

The report issued by President Barack Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing recommends departments adopt some of the strategies used by Cincinnati, all of which stressed the need for deep community involvement in policing as part of the reforms.

Emanuel also consulted former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick — a native Chicagoan — at the height of the scandal surrounding McDonald's death.

Emanuel acknowledged Thursday it was a mistake to use a private email account to conduct public business.

All 30,000 city employees are now banned from doing business on their personal accounts.

While Emanuel said it was the "right thing" to do, he also said the new policy has drawbacks. It could compromise the privacy of public officials and deter them from seeking outside advice and counsel, he said.

"You don't want to see somebody in public life be totally excluded from being exposed to people," Emanuel said.

Read the emails between Emanuel and Cranley and Patrick here:

Emails between Rahm Emanuel, Deval Patrick and John Cranley by DNAinfo Chicago on Scribd

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