It was a case of police abuse that riveted the nation. Videotaped violence, under the cloak of darkness, at the hands of uniformed cops. Cries for reform and soul searching in the halls of power. Ultimately, the political pressure prompted the big-city mayor to abandon re-election plans.

Was this Baltimore in 2015? No. The death of Freddie Gray while in police custody prompted Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to forgo a re-election campaign, but there was no videotape. Cleveland in 2017? Not hardly. Mayor Frank Jackson was re-elected, even after the police killing of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old carrying a pellet gun in a public park.

The case in question occurred in Los Angeles, circa 1992. Riots erupted after a jury with no African-American members acquitted four white cops despite videotaped evidence they brutally beat Rodney King, an African-American motorist. Longtime Mayor Tom Bradley decided to step down.

More than a quarter century after the King riots, violence in the streets remains a defining issue in mayoral elections across the country. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is not immune, and he seems to know it. When thousands of people marched down the Dan Ryan Expressway last weekend, the protest signaled that street violence and police reform will be defining issues of Chicago’s 2019 mayoral campaign.

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David Greising

David Greising is the president and chief executive of the Better Government Association, joining the BGA in 2018. For nearly a century, the BGA has fought for honest and effective government through investigative...