CHICAGO — A group of Chicago Police officers entered Rep. Bobby Rush’s closed Englewood office and lounged, napped and made popcorn, doing nothing while looters destroyed South Side businesses nearby, video shows.
Rush, whose office is at 55th Street and South Wentworth Avenue, said he got a call his office had been burglarized during the widespread looting and vandalism that took place throughout the city early June 1.
After viewing security footage, Rush’s staff saw a group of about eight uniformed police officers enter the office while looting took place nearby. The officers napped, made popcorn and coffee, played on their phones and generally lounged, the congressman said.
At one point, as many as 13 officers — including three supervisors — were in the office relaxing, officials said. Officers were in the office for four to five hours.
At the same time, nearby businesses were looted and burned down. More than a dozen people were killed throughout the city that night.
“Clearly, I believe that they tarnished the badge,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said during a press conference Thursday. “Looting was going on, buildings were being burned, officers were on the front lines truly taking a beating … and these guys were lounging in a congressman’s office.”
While the officers weren’t the ones who broke the glass to the congressman’s office, according to video footage, “they definitely made themselves at home in a place that wasn’t theirs,” a spokesman for Rush said.
“They even had the unmitigated gall to go and make coffee for themselves and some popcorn — my popcorn — in my microwave while looters were tearing apart businesses within their sight, within their reach,” Rush said during the press conference. “They were in a mode of relaxation and they did not care about what was happening to businesspeople, to this city. They didn’t care. They absolutely didn’t care.”
Lightfoot slammed the officers, vowing to hold them accountable.
“Perhaps what is most harmful about this is that for so many people on the South and the West side, the actions of these officers, the deplorable lack of responsibility to do their job at a time when the city and their fellow officers needed them most, their conduct will confirm the perception that too many people on the South and the West side were left to fend for themselves, that police don’t care that Black and Brown communities were looted and burned,” Lightfoot said.
“These individuals did, indeed, abandon their responsibilities and their obligation and their oath to serve and protect. We should all be disgusted, and we should all feel hurt and betrayed in this moment of all moments.”
But the mayor stopped short of saying the officers should be fired, instead saying officials should “take the strongest possible action … particularly with the supervisors.”
“These officers clearly felt like they were untouchable, that there would be no accountability. And why not when the bosses, the whiteshirts, are in the room with them?” Lightfoot said. “We’ve got a problem that we have to solve.”
Officials will determine if the officers committed a crime, Lightfoot said, and the city will ensure the State’s Attorney’s Office and others “scrutinize” the incident.
The incident is also being investigated by the Police Department’s Internal Affairs Division, though the investigation is “young,” Lightfoot said. She saw the video for the first time Wednesday night, she and Rush said.
Investigators are trying to determine who the officers are. They’ve tentatively identified some of them, Lightfoot said, but she urged the officers to come forward.
“Don’t make us come find you. Come in,” Lightfoot said.
Rush, a longtime civil rights leader, was appalled by the video. His younger sister died the morning of that incident and his family has been in mourning, which is why the video wasn’t released until now, he said.
“That these police officers while on duty, in uniform … how they took such a lackadaisical attitude, a noncaring attitude, violating my personal space while looting was occurring all around them. They didn’t care,” Rush said.
South and West side businesses were hit particularly hard by looting and vandalism. Some grocery stores and pharmacies have yet to reopen, forcing residents to travel long distances to get essential food and medicine.
South Side neighborhood leaders and elected officials previously said police were nowhere to be found during this looting and criticized Lightfoot for having so much security — including the National Guard — Downtown.
DeAndre Sanders is a barber at Hair Experts, in the same mall as Rush’s office. He said police told his staff to leave that day — and when they came back the next day, their shop was destroyed.
“How much were they really trying to save 55th Street?” said Sanders, who noted his barbershop lost $50,000 worth of equipment to vandals. “How did this happen with a police station that close?”
Police Supt. David Brown said the days of looking the other way when officers are involved with excessive force or misconduct are over.
“The behavior reflects leadership,” Brown said. “It’s a hard truth to take when you’re a leader, that you’re responsible for the behavior of others. And we had an exchange about consequences for this type of behavior that we’ve seen — not just what happened at the … congressman’s office, but the other behavior: officer giving the finger, homophobic slurs, excessive force. That behavior reflects our leadership. Officers asleep during a riot with supervisors in tow reflects our leadership.”
Brown said he was told by members of the department he was being “too harsh” by relieving officers of their police powers in recent weeks.
“Move or get out of the way, but we are going to uphold the nobility of this profession,” Brown said. “We will be accountable to the Chicagoans that deserve a department they can be proud of. That this conduct is not representative; but if it’s not, let’s do something about it. Let’s now be the good cops that hold the bad cops accountable by rooting them out of this profession. Period. No question mark. No gray area.
“If you sleep during a riot, what are you doing during a regular shift when there’s no riot? … What makes you comfortable enough a supervisor won’t hold you accountable? … step up or step out. I’m not playing.”
Lightfoot said she wants to use the incident to spur police reform in Chicago — and she’ll particularly push for police officers all around the state to require licensing and certification to work. She’s already asked the city’s legal team to draft legislation, she said.
The police union “has been holding back the necessary change and reform” the city needs to make officers accountable, Lightfoot said. At another point, she said, “I expect a significant amount of opposition from police unions. But I think we’re at a moment where the things we felt were impossible … where we have the opportunity to make this happen.
“Even where it may be difficult, if it’s right and righteous, we must act.”
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