Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot recently proclaimed her support for police at an Chicago Police Department graduation ceremony, but her statements likely fell on deaf ears after the past several years of actions that have alienated the law enforcement community.
In her speech at the Navy Pier Ballroom, the mayor told the room full of police academy graduates, promoted detectives, field training officers, captains and evidence technicians, “I will always have your back.”
Her words come at a time when morale is low and days off have been canceled. Additionally, Lightfoot eliminated over 600 vacancies in the department last year — effectively shrinking the agency to fit the budget.
Despite this change, Lightfoot assured the audience that she was never in favor of defunding police. “Our residents are desperate for your help and your support,” she said. “They want more police — not less police. We are not a city and will never be a city that bows to those arguing for defunding. That’s not who we are. And that’s not what our residents want.”
To back her statements, the city council approved a $189 million increase in police spending, amounting to a budget total of nearly $1.9 billion. Budget Director Susie Park has said the majority of that increase will go toward the new police contract, which includes a 20% pay raise over eight years.
The mayor also assured the 200 graduates that she will be supporting law enforcement for the rest of her tenure.
“Our residents and our city need your skillful, courageous and rapid response. I know how big of a responsibility this is. But I want you to also know that, as mayor of this city … I will always make sure that we are providing you with the best training, with the best resources to make sure that you are able to do your job, and when you need that extra support, that you have the resources that you need to heal,” Lightfoot said.
It’s been almost a year since CPD officers who were gathered at the University of Chicago Medical Center in support of Officer Carlos Yanez Jr. — who was critically wounded in a traffic stop shooting that left his partner Officer Ella French dead — gave the mayor the cold shoulder as she approached them.
Alderman Matt O’Shea said Lightfoot’s words are not enough, urging her to “put her money where her mouth is” by approving his ordinance guaranteeing officers one day off each week.
“This is a very important piece of legislation to show the men and women of the Chicago Police Department that we’re trying to take off some of the load,” O’Shea said.
Alderman Anthony Napolitano put forward another ordinance that allows officers to receive advance notice of their schedules and gives them the opportunity to decline excessive overtime hours.
Napolitano said Lightfoot’s “demonizing” officers over questionable videos posted to social media was proof that she was not unequivocally supportive of police. He also cited her choice of CPD superintendent David Brown as not being in line with the wishes of police leaders, as well as her support for policies limiting foot and vehicle pursuits.
“When you start implementing policies like a no-foot-chase policy, I mean — what do we go to? Stop or I’ll say stop again and, if you don’t, all right, maybe I’ll catch you next Thursday? Try not to kill somebody while you’re running away from me?” Napolitano asked.
Many in the law enforcement community similarly challenged the mayor’s statements.
“We are families of loved ones who have lost their life due to the horrific conditions that these men and women are working under. Conditions that have been condoned by her administration. If she really wants to have their back and make a real change for them, she needs to have a conversation with our families,” Julie Troglia, the widow of a CPD officer who committed suicide last year, said.
The CPD currently has 11,762 sworn officers, roughly 2,000 less than before Lightfoot took office. The department has a shortage of 1,408 sworn officers. The depleted ranks come after 814 retirements this year, following 973 for all last year and 625 the year before.