CHICAGO — Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the city will find and fire bad police who “cross the line” during recent protests and unrest.
The mayor has been vocal in her support of the Chicago Police Department even as the agency has come under heavy scrutiny for officers’ behavior during recent protests. The protests have focused on stopping police brutality after officers in Minneapolis killed George Floyd, a Black man.
But during a Friday press conference, Lightfoot took a harsher tone, warning officers who break the rules that they will be found and will be fired if that’s appropriate.
“While I believe that the vast majority of Chicago Police officers have done their job well and, under difficult circumstances, have exercised restraint, unfortunately we’re seeing evidence of some who have not,” Lightfoot said during a passionate speech. “We will not tolerate people who cross the line. We will not tolerate excessive force. We will not tolerate profanity and homophobic comments that demean the badge, demean the honor of being a Chicago Police officer and demean the value of who we are as Chicagoans. We will not tolerate that.
“Officers who choose to do those things or to tape over their badges or to turn off their bodyworn cameras — all things that violate very clear directives of the [CPD] — if you are one of those officers, we will find you, we will identify you and we will strip you of your police powers. … You are demeaning all of your colleagues, who are working their tails off on 12-hour shifts to keep our city safe. Shame on you. … As appropriate, you will be fired from the Chicago Police Department.”
Recent videos and photos have shown police officers hitting protesters with batons, hiding their identifying information, pushing and hitting people and pepper spraying reporters, among other things.
This week, video showed police officers dragging a Black woman from a car by her hair and kneeling on her neck. A photo from a Block Club reporter showed another officer flipping off protesters. Those incidents are being investigated, the city has said, and Lightfoot has called for the officer who flipped off protesters to be fired.
And on Friday, WTTW revealed police hit the president of the Police Board, Ghian Foreman, with a baton while he protested Sunday. Foreman has filed a complaint with the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, which investigates officer misconduct.
In all, that office has received 344 complaints about police misconduct since Friday, when the protests started. Lightfoot has said those will all be thoroughly investigated and discipline will be meted out.
People can file complaints with the Civilian Office of Police Accountability by calling 311.
“Some of the things we’ve seen aren’t honest mistakes,” Lightfoot said. “These are people who do not share our values and will not be part of the Chicago Police Department.”
But it’s not just the line officers who will face punishments, Lightfoot said. The mayor vowed to question supervisors whose officers break the rules.
“The issue isn’t the policies,” Lightfoot said. “The issue is making sure that officers follow their training and that the supervision is clear about what is authorized and what is not.”
Still, Lightfoot said the vast majority of officers are doing good work amid the protests.
Earlier this week, the mayor promised to make reforms to the department within 90 days.
- “Better and different training for officers which brings the community into the academy as teachers.” Officers should receive training from members of the community on the history of the neighborhoods where they will serve. Groups like My Block, My Hood, My City could be used to teach officers so they “understand the history of the people they are required to serve and protect.”
- “Implementing a real officer wellness program and completing the Officer Support System/Early Intervention System pilot that provides support for officers in crisis, improving our peer support program and providing counselors to those in need.”
- Mandating crisis intervention and procedural justice training for all officers. Providing real tools for officers and community members to deescalate challenging situations.”
- “Establishing a new recruit program on police-community relations and community policing with views from the community about what works.”
Subscribe to Block Club Chicago. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.