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Head of Chicago Police Board: break the 'code of silence'

Chicago Police Board President Lori Lightfoot spoke to the City Club of Chicago Tuesday. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

A ‘code of silence’ in the Chicago Police Department must be broken — perhaps by adopting hotlines like those used in corporate America, according to the new head of the city’s police disciplinary agency.

“Those officers who are doing their jobs the right way must be responsible not only for themselves, but for their partners and colleagues who have gone astray,” said Lori Lightfoot, president of the Chicago Police Board.

“It is not enough that individual officers do their job with integrity. They cannot bear witness to misconduct by others, turn a blind eye and believe that all is well.”

That’s why the police board, which is conducting a search for a new police superintendent, has asked every one of the 39 candidates to write an essay on how they would get cops to speak out about their colleagues’ misconduct, Lightfoot said Tuesday in a speech to the City Club of Chicago.

“We have to think of creative ways to do that,” she told reporters after her speech. “We know in other environments — say, the corporate world — they have hotlines. … I think we can borrow some lessons from the corporate world along that line.”

Lightfoot said sergeants also must be held accountable for the officers they supervise.

She said she hopes the police board will present the names of three final candidates for superintendent to Mayor Rahm Emanuel by the end of February.

Asked about an alderman’s proposal to force the city to release videos of police-involved shootings to the public within 14 days of the incident, she said: “14 days, frankly, strikes me as a little soon.”

But Lightfoot, a former federal prosecutor, said a separate police reform panel that she also sits on is considering whether the city should publicize the names of police officers involved in shootings, each of which is investigated by the Independent Police Review Authority.

Currently, the city’s contract with the Fraternal Order of Police prevents the department from releasing the names of officers under investigation. The contract expires on June 30, 2017.

Lightfoot acknowledged that officers are coming under more scrutiny than ever — and that some are balking at it.

“Welcome to the real world,” said Lightfoot, who is now a partner at the law firm Mayer Brown.