With Police Reform Flip-Flop, Mayor Emanuel Fails Leadership Test

Having lived and worked under a flawed system of school accountability institutionalized by the Bush administration in 2002, and wholly embraced by Rahm Emanuel when he took control of Chicago Public Schools in 2011, I find his latest backward decision regarding Chicago Police Department reform profoundly hypocritical. Mayor Emanuel’s rhetoric on school accountability is centered on one key concept: consequences.

This is the logic that Emanuel embraces: Where there are no consequences, there is no accountability.

As a teacher and principal in CPS under Rahm Emanuel, the “accountability and consequences” ideology meant that my colleagues and I worked under the threat of school closures, poor school ratings, and loss of funding tied to student enrollment. The basic idea being that if there are no consequences, then schools and educators have no real incentive to improve. Although I have some serious issues with the assumptions that underlie this logic, my issues are irrelevant to the topic at hand. What is relevant is the fact that this is the logic that Emanuel embraces: Where there are no consequences, there is no accountability.

If he embraces consequence-based accountability for educators, then he should embrace it for himself in terms of holding his own administration accountable for effective police reforms. It was this kind of accountability that the mayor committed our city to in January when he signed an agreement in principle with the Justice Department to negotiate a consent decree that would be overseen by a federal judge who would have the power to hold City Hall accountable by levying consequences should it fail to live up to its promises.

If Emanuel embraces consequence-based accountability for educators, then he should embrace it for himself.

The U.S. Department of Justice stated Chicago’s problems were too “deep,” and “longstanding” to be reformed without the guidance and force of a judge.   The judge would work with monitors to oversee the reforms and order compliance when the city falls short of the agreement’s goals.  The judge would also set time frames for compliance, and ultimately fine the city if it fails to meet those requirements.  Emanuel signed this agreement at a time when Chicago’s policing issues were a lead topic on national and local news outlets.  

Now however–with far less attention on him–Emanuel has done a complete about-face and instead is seeking an independent monitor with no power to hold the city accountable with consequences. In doing so, he has betrayed his stated commitment to holding his administration accountable for reforming the Chicago Police Department. Even worse — according to the Chicago Tribune — Emanuel planned on keeping quiet about this reversal, and only announced it because his staff had the false impression that Chicago Fraternal Order of Police President Kevin Graham was going to expose Emanuel’s flip-flop during a radio appearance.

One of the tell-tale signs of a great leader is that he holds himself up to the same standards he demands of everyone else.

To be clear–just as with schools–police need more than just consequence-based accountability. They need support, training, guidance and resources. However, after listening to Emanuel talk about accountability and consequences for our schools for the past six years, I find it incredibly hypocritical that he would maintain the status quo by seeking to establish a powerless oversight body that cannot hand out the kinds of consequences that produce real accountability.  One of the tell-tale signs of a great leader is that he holds himself up to the same standards he demands of everyone else. Such leaders secure respect, admiration, and commitment from those they lead.  On this critical measure of leadership, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has fallen far short.


Troy LaRaviere
President, Chicago Principals and Administrators Association
Principal of Chicago’s #1 Rated Neighborhood School (Blaine Elementary, 2011 – 2016)

4 thoughts on “With Police Reform Flip-Flop, Mayor Emanuel Fails Leadership Test

  1. As usual, your analysis is incisive and irrefutable.
    Sadly, Emanuel has always been this way, and will never change. He’s the living embodiment of everything that makes the Democratic party establishment incapable of appealing to its natural constituency: the oppressed, the disadvantaged, the young, and all those who seek social justice.

  2. Lori Lightfoot spoke poignantly to the consequence of the city’s inaction to the DOJ report: lawsuits. I guess the $210 million dollars that Chicago taxpayers, vs the police themselves, have shouldered is not enough incentive for change. Maybe when Chicago goes the way of Detroit, this will get attention. After all, what’s left for the city to tax?

  3. Solve the problem, take the mayor’s place. Troy, you stand the best chance of uniting the city in a successful effort to defeat the mayor. This is not the time to be humble and, “Stay in your lane.” Your knowledge and track record in the field of education would cause a large portion of the electorate to support you because they are outraged at the current state of the public schools. They see how school system serves primarily, as a revenue stream that drains public funds into private pockets. You have the professional and educational credentials that will satisfy a large number of voters that are currently emotionally disconnected from the current political process. Additionally, you have credibility in the street as an honest and capable man. You can surround yourself with people that may be more knowledgeable in specific policy areas. There is no shame in that, the city needs a team of leaders that truly have the public’s best interest at heart as the conduct the public’s business. You need to come out now. The mayor is co-opting key constituencies so that come election time, if the turn out is low, they will be his people. Do not heed the council of those that stress the need for money to wage a successful campaign. If money is allowed to be the determining factor, Rahm wins hands down. The special prosecutor in the Van Dyke trial has filed a motion to replace the judge because of judicial bias against the prosecution. The educational system is not the only institution in need of new leadership. The city need a new leader that just happens to be an educator. Troy, save our city.

Leave a Reply