The No. 2 man in the Chicago Police Department is in hot water with Mayor Lori Lightfoot for taking a family vacation approved and paid for months ago but now in violation of the mayor’s edict that none of the top brass take time off during the violent summer months.
Lightfoot refused to say whether First Deputy Superintendent Anthony Riccio’s job was in jeopardy after he took a trip during the first week of June. But it sure sounds like it.
“That would be incredibly disappointing to me if that happened because I gave a very specific directive that no exempt should be taking vacation during the summer,” Lightfoot told reporters at an unrelated event Friday.
“If that happened, that’ll be something that we have to have a serious conversation about,” she said
Pressed on whether she would remove Riccio, Lightfoot said, “I need to know more details before I can even go down that path. But exempts have to set the example. And the example of doing something that the mayor has directed them not to do is highly problematic.”
Lightfoot did not say precisely when she issued the ban on summer vacation by members of CPD’s exempt ranks. But it was clearly delivered after her April 2 victory and possibly after she took office on May 20.
Less than an hour later, Police Department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi confirmed the mayor’s fears.
“The First Deputy Superintendent had a June 2019 family vacation that was approved and paid for in October of 2018, prior to the mayoral transition,” Guglielmi wrote in an email to the Sun-Times.
“Supt. Johnson approved the First Deputy taking this time off given arrangements were previously approved.”
It’s unclear whether Lightfoot expected police brass to cancel previously scheduled vacations.
Sources said the trip — reportedly to Aruba — took place June 1–7 and that the first deputy was “in town and working” on Memorial Day weekend and “through the following week.”
Riccio ascended to the Police Department’s second in command in January 2018 when then-First Deputy Kevin Navarro retired.
At the time, Riccio was running the Police Department’s Bureau of Organized Crime.
Then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the Chicago Police Department was fortunate to have a man of Riccio’s talents who was able to “step into those shoes and not miss a beat in filling them.”
Violence remains high
After “flooding the zone” over Memorial Day weekend by putting 1,200 more police officers on the streets and partnering with dozens of religious leaders — and touting more than 100 events and youth programs as alternative activities — Lightfoot came away with results tragically similar to previous years.
Seven were killed, same as last year. And 34 were wounded, two more than last year.
After the following weekend was even worse — with 10 dead and 52 wounded — Lightfoot started what she’s calling “Accountability Monday.”
That’s when she summons top brass to a meeting in the mayor’s office to hash out the violence that took place over the previous weekend.
Lightfoot has acknowledged that she is “pushing” Johnson and his team to have a “sense of urgency” about reducing the traditional summer surge of violence and that, if they don’t have that sense of urgency, they’re in the wrong line of work.
She wants them to use all of the data analytics and other tools at their disposal to implement a winning crime-fighting strategy.
“I’m asking tough, probing questions. And as I said to them last week, `If you don’t want to be here, I’m happy to have a meeting where no one shows up because everybody’s doing their work and the violence is starting to de-escalate. That’s certainly the goal,” the mayor told reporters before this week’s accountability session.
If Lightfoot decides to remove or discipline Riccio for a vacation approved and paid for by the superintendent before she took office, it could be, yet another blow to the morale of police officers who have been working under an expired contract for two years.
Earlier this week, Fraternal Order of Police President Kevin Graham branded as “wholly false” a “rumor” Lightfoot said she heard from a “credible” source and saw fit to repeat on the city’s cable channel: that the union told officers to “lay back” and “do nothing” over Memorial Day weekend.
Two days later, Lightfoot mixed it up on the City Council floor with the first vice-president of the FOP when Patrick Murray accused the new mayor of freezing the police union out of transition discussions on public safety and police reform.
On Friday, the FOP released an “open letter” rebutting the new mayor’s claims about the police union. It urged the “citizens of Chicago” to “encourage” Lightfoot to stop the blame game and “initiate a dialogue” with the FOP.
“We fear that [the] mayor’s intransigence, combined with her inflammatory and often false rhetoric is scapegoating the police for the chronic violence that permeates our city,” the letter stated.