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City ‘could have a mess on our hands’ if police don’t use every tool against violence: Lightfoot

In the wake of a homicide and shooting tally that was the worst for a February weekend in 18 years, the mayor said she “had a lot of very difficult conversations with CPD leadership.”

Mayor Lori Lightfoot at a news conference about the Illinois Innovation Network and the Discovery Partners Institute’ announcement of a new project for The 78. Afterward, she addressed the weekend surge in violence.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot at a news conference about the Illinois Innovation Network and the Discovery Partners Institute’ announcement of a new project for The 78. Afterward, she addressed the weekend surge in violence.
Max Herman/For the Sun-Times

Chicago “could have a mess on our hands that eclipses some of the worst years of violence” the city has seen, unless police get proactive and use all the tools available to them, Mayor Lori Lightfoot warned Wednesday.

After a weekend of violence — including nine homicides — that was the worst in February in 18 years, Lightfoot summoned interim Chicago Police Supt. Charlie Beck and 41 CPD commanders under his control to essentially read them the riot act.

“This weekend’s crime numbers, where we saw so many homicides and we saw a lot of shootings, were incredibly distressing to me,” Lightfoot said.

“I’m not gonna shy away from that and I had a lot of very difficult conversations with CPD leadership over the weekend, Monday and yesterday.”

Lightfoot was speaking after a news conference announcing a new project for “The 78,” a massive tract of land at Roosevelt Road and Clark Street.

In those conversations with police leadership, “I challenged them that they have to be proactive. We brought in every single district commander to our weekly meetings that we don’t normally see. I was very clear with them that if they do not act in a proactive way to use the tools that are available to them, including community partners, we are going to have a mess on our hands that eclipses some of the worst years of violence that we’ve seen in recent memory.

“I’m not about to let that happen.”

Lightfoot said she believes the message was delivered and that police commanders understood “the challenge before them — but also the opportunity that’s there.”

She’s confident “they will rise to the occasion, because they have to.”

Dozens of Chicago Police Department officers were summoned to City Hall on Tuesday after an unusually violent February weekend.
Dozens of Chicago Police Department officers were summoned to City Hall on Tuesday after an unusually violent February weekend.
Fran Spielman/Sun-Times

That violent weekend came on the heels of a spike in crime on the CTA, including a stabbing at a Loop Red Line station and a shooting on the Blue Line at the UIC-Halsted stop. Suspects in both incidents have been apprehended.

Another stabbing also occurred on the Red Line platform at 79th Street on Monday; a 37-year-old man has been charged in that incident.

Asked if a crackdown on runaway police overtime had contributed to the surge in violence, Lightfoot offered only a succinct “No.”

Beck had offered the same opinion when he talked to the Sun-Times on Tuesday after the City Hall meeting with Lightfoot.

“I wouldn’t describe the mayor as angry. I’m not angry. She’s not angry. We’re concerned,” Beck told the Sun-Times then.

“We have some issues that we’re dealing with in certain pockets of Chicago. We met to talk about those strategies. I’m not gonna go into them in depth, except to say that they involve a broad range of resources focused on areas that have suffered the violence the most.”

Lightfoot also addressed a sit-in outside her office Tuesday, in which activists from the Woodlawn neighborhood were demanding a community benefits agreement connected to the development of the Obama Presidential Center to ensure that black families are not displaced.

“They were exercising First Amendment rights but there are a lot of different views within Woodlawn, as the city knows from participating in 15 community meetings and holding an open house where 230 people came,” Lightfoot said.

“So we’re gonna continue to engage with that community and move forward in a way that supports the community.”

Woodlawn concerns include displacement and rising rents. “I think we’ve got a very solid plan addressing many of these challenges.”

Contributing: David Roeder

Members of Southside Together Organizing for Power held a sit-in outside Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office Tuesday.
Members of Southside Together Organizing for Power held a sit-in outside Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office Tuesday.
Fran Spielman/Sun-Times