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Lightfoot, Preckwinkle on ‘the conversation’ with children about police

Chicago mayoral candidate Lori Lightfoot, right, participates in a candidate forum sponsored by One Chicago For All Alliance at Daley College in Chicago last week with Toni Preckwinkle, left. File Photo. (AP Photo/Teresa Crawford)

Candidates Toni Preckwinkle and Lori Lightfoot faced a question Friday night with special meaning for two African-American mothers during the tamest broadcast confrontation of the mayoral runoff campaign.

The Cook County Board president and the former head of the Chicago Police Board managed to go a full hour without directly insulting each other, without arguing or even raising their voices at a town hall meeting at Chicago State University before a largely African-American audience.

And when WBEZ radio morning host Jenn White posed this question, submitted by a CSU student, it almost seemed as if the two were sharing a common bond:

“What do you tell your children or grandchildren about potential encounters with the police?”

Both women acknowledged that while the question may be unique to them in this campaign, they recognize that it’s a common one for minority parents.

“Well, I tell my daughter to be careful. She has police officers who are in her school. But we do talk about the conversation that I think a lot of black and brown parents have with their children about being careful, about being respectful, answer the questions politely,” said Lori Lightfoot, a former federal prosecutor and Chicago Police Board president.

Lori Lightfoot, left, and Toni Preckwinkle, right, debate Wednesday night live on CBS 2. Screen images from Sun-Times files.
Lori Lightfoot, left, and Toni Preckwinkle, right, debate Wednesday night live on CBS 2. Screen images from Sun-Times files.

Lightfoot noted that her daughter is only 11, but said that “as she gets older we’re going to have more of those conversations that go in depth about the type of challenges that young black people face on the street when they encounter police.”

Lightfoot also said she would tell her daughter that most police officers “come on the job for the right reason” but that some are “culture illiterate” because they “live in one of the most segregated cities in the country.”

Preckwinkle noted that her two children, now adults, are older than Lightfoot’s but that she also had “very difficult conversations with them as they approached their teenage years.”

“What I find is that every black and brown parent that I know has had these conversations with their children,” Preckwinkle said. “Be respectful. Yes, sir. No, sir. Keep your hands in view. Don’t ever argue with the police on the street. Never. If they take you to the police station, just call me.”

“You know, when I say this to white audiences, they sort of look askance,” she added. “And it’s heartbreaking. It’s heartbreaking, because I know that most of our police officers are good and decent people who try to do a very difficult job well. It’s a very challenging, very difficult job, but we have to prepare our children for the police officers who, frankly, do not respect black and brown children, who do not respect black and brown people.”

The candidates were also asked about recent city water rate increases.

Lightfoot promised to “scale them back.”

“I agree. Water is basic to all of our lives, and we have to figure out how we’re going to be sure we deliver water service to everybody and at a reasonable price,” Preckwinkle said.