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Lightfoot wants Emanuel to condemn FOP for trying to derail consent decree

Mayoral challenger Lori Lightfoot and Mayor Rahm Emanuel| File images by Sun-Times, Getty Images

Mayoral challenger Lori Lightfoot demanded Friday that Mayor Rahm Emanuel publicly condemn the police union for attempting to derail negotiations aimed at forcing federal court oversight over the Chicago Police Department.

At the same time the Fraternal Order of Police filed its motion to intervene in the lawsuit filed last summer by retiring Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, the FOP also sought to dismiss Madigan’s lawsuit altogether.

The union argued that Madigan lacks the legal authority to force Emanuel to negotiate a consent decree.

On Friday, the union’s motion to dismiss was front-and-center in the crowded race for mayor.

Lightfoot, who resigned as Police Board president to run for mayor, demanded that Emanuel publicly condemn a union that stands as an impediment to reforms desperately needed to restore public trust shattered by the police shooting of Laquan McDonald.

“He consistently says nothing in the face of countless efforts by the FOP to do everything they can to undermine progress and reform . . . and bridge the divide between the department and the community,” she said.

“At some point, you have to draw the conclusion that maybe he agrees with them . . . His silence speaks volumes.”

Emanuel’s communications director Adam Collins said Lightfoot’s complaint about the mayor’s “silence” is “flat wrong.” He accused Lightfoot of putting “political point scoring ahead of the facts.”

“The city’s Law Department has already been in court seeking to dismiss the FOP’s motion, and we said we opposed to 10 days ago,” Collins wrote in an email.

Emanuel has implemented a steady stream of police reforms — from body cams, Tasers and a new use-of-force policy to new training requirements and crisis intervention training.

But Lightfoot argued that the mayor “hasn’t embraced the big, tough changes” to the police contract and had to be “dragged into” consent decree negotiations “under threat of a lawsuit.”

Lightfoot co-chaired the Task Force on Police Accountability whose scathing indictment of the Chicago Police Department prompted the U.S. Justice Department to do the same after a federal investigation triggered by the McDonald shooting.

The task force demanded changes to a police contract that it claimed “codifies the code of silence” that Emanuel famously acknowledged exists at the Chicago Police Department.

“For two-plus years, I have been calling for the mayor . . . to give people a sense of the values they are articulating in these contract negotiations and they have remained silent. It’s almost like he’s afraid of the FOP,” Lightfoot said.

FOP President Kevin Graham, who has complained about the slow pace of contract talks, could not be reached. FOP Vice-President Martin Preib refused to comment.

The attorney general’s offices stressed that the FOP’s motion to intervene must succeed first before the motion to dismiss will be considered.

“As we have done with community groups and other stakeholders, we have sought the input of police officers and FOP leadership as part of the consent decree process,” spokesperson Eileen Boyce wrote in an email.

“We will continue negotiating the consent decree, and we will respond to these motions in court.”

In January, 2017, the DOJ released a report that portrayed Chicago Police officers as poorly trained and equipped and inadequately supervised and seldom disciplined, despite a pattern of excessive force and civil rights abuses against minorities.

On the day the findings were announced, Emanuel signed an “agreement in principle” to negotiate a consent decree, culminating in the appointment of a federal monitor, to implement the sweeping police reforms the DOJ recommended.

But when U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions signaled his disdain for court mandates that tie the hands of local police departments and ordered a nationwide review of those consent decrees, Emanuel worked in secret with the DOJ to draft a “memorandum of agreement” tailor-made to avoid federal court oversight.

Police reform advocates were united in their outrage, but the mayor stood his ground for months.

It was only after Madigan filed a lawsuit against the city in August 2017 that Emanuel finally agreed to negotiate with Madigan to finalize a consent decree — with rigid timetables and financial commitments.

Days earlier, the city had sought to dismiss a similar lawsuit on grounds that Emanuel’s “extensive, ongoing reform efforts,” including a groundbreaking training initiative, made the legal claims moot.