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Chicago police officers in ‘hot seat’ with mayor

By Tariqah Shakir-Muhammad -Staff Writer- | Last updated: Jun 17, 2020 - 12:33:18 PM

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U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush looks on as Mayor Lori Lightfoot speaks during a news conference in Chicago on June 11, about a group of Chicago police officers in the congressman’s campaign office while looters hit nearby stores. Photo: AP Ashlee Rezin Garcia

CHICAGO—The Chicago Police Department and Mayor Lori Lightfoot continue to butt heads since the release of footage showing police misconduct with protestors and their handling of looting throughout the city during uprisings in early June.

The mayor expressed her disappointment and outrage again at a June 11 press conference after still images surfaced of Chicago police “lounging” inside the campaign office of U.S. Representative Bobby Rush (D-Ill.).

The images show one officer lying down eating popcorn, another on his phone and several others sitting while nearby businesses were being looted.

“As a Black woman we are often told don’t show your rage, don’t let them paint you as another angry, Black woman,” the mayor tearfully said. “Don’t scowl, don’t curse, keep it together; be respectable and presentable. My life in this country has forced me to be angry and determined to be a fighter. All my life I have fought with every fiber of my being to survive in a world that was meant to throw flaming roadblocks in our way as Black people,” expressed Mayor Lightfoot.

“The officers in this incident and others we’ve seen this week have demonstrated a total disregard for their colleagues and the badge, and for those who were sworn to serve and protect and these officers will be held accountable.”

In a June 4 photo captured by Block Club Chicago an officer whose name has not been released raised both middle fingers to protestors.

Despite Mayor Lightfoot’s condemnation of the behavior, president of the Chicago Police Union John Catanzara disagreed and said what the officers were observed doing wasn’t “fireable.” During the protests, another Chicago officer was captured concealing his badge number while being interviewed by a journalist which violates the department’s policy.

“Chicago Police Superintendent David O. Brown has relieved a Chicago Police Department member of his police powers for conduct unbecoming. The officer used a vulgar, offensive gesture directed at a member of the public while on duty and in uniform,” said Kellie Bartoli of the Chicago Police Department’s Office of Communications, in an email to The Final Call. “The member will be limited to administrative duties at the direction of the Superintendent,” she added.

Still image from security video, released by Chicago mayor’s office, shows the police officers lounging in the congressman’s office during protest. Photo: MGN Online

“At the request of Chicago Police Superintendent David O. Brown, an internal investigation has been opened into the police response and actions that took place from the late evening of May 31, 2020 into June 1, 2020, at Congressman Bobby Rush’s campaign office at 5401 S. Wentworth Ave. Confirmation of the timeline, responding units and officers will be included as part of the investigation,” the statement continued.

Some Chicago activists say the police behavior is no surprise and is a demonstration of how they feel towards Black communities.

“The truth of the matter, there are a lot of police officers in the force that don’t agree that Black lives matter. There are police officers in the force who are White supremacists who only joined the force just to go in Black communities and utilize their anger and hate in our communities and be against us, so the middle-finger thing doesn’t surprise me,” said Chicago activist Ja’Mal D. Green.

“At the end of the day this police department has been one of the most racist departments in the country for many years now and the only thing we’ve been doing is putting a different face every time there’s a new mayor as a superintendent but not really moving forward, real reforms and weeding out the White supremacists in the department which is why things continue to end tragically in our communities,” he added.

Mr. Green, a former Chicago mayoral candidate said, the police officers’ nonchalant behavior in predominantly Black and Brown neighborhoods doesn’t surprise him.

“It doesn’t surprise me that they were protecting downtown,” he continued. “When it came to the shopping malls or districts of the South and West side you did not see that same energy blocking entrances for folks to not loot.”

Representative Bobby Rush said during the mayor’s June 11 press conference, “They did not care about what was happening to businesspeople, to this city. They didn’t care, they absolutely didn’t care.”

“I am so amazed, so thankful that it didn’t take four hours since I talked to Alderman Dowell that the mayor was on the phone calling me, asking me could I come to city hall. … I am absolutely amazed at her response, that she takes it personally.”

Sonya Tompkins, an executive producer at WVON 1690AM, the city’s Black talk radio station, raised the question, “Why are the police sitting around, watching our neighborhood get looted?”

“I’m having so many people calling in saying the police aren’t doing anything, just sitting here, they’re not doing a thing,” she added.

Ms. Tompkins said the police officer who flipped off protestors was showing off his entitlement.

“It’s not in that mindset that something is going to happen to me,” she continued. “Is anybody cussing him out, going off on him? He has to have the ability to withhold and restrain,” Ms. Tompkins pointed out.

“To me that says, ‘f your community,’ ‘f what you all are talking about,’ ‘it means nothing to me, I get to go back to my neighborhood which is peaceful’. … we don’t have to talk about what’s going on with you all, not think about it, pop some popcorn and not think about it.’”