Aldermen call for superintendent’s firing, hearings after inspector general blasts CPD response to riots
Ald. Ray Lopez (15th) said Chicago Police Supt. David Brown is “of no value” and should go. Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) wants hearings to get “straight answers” from the mayor and police about failures identified in Inspector General Joseph Ferguson’s new report.
Critics of Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Police Supt. David Brown on Thursday agreed with the findings of a new report that says the police department was “outflanked” and “underprepared” for last summer’s riots — with one alderman saying Brown should be fired.
Some aldermen also said the mayor should have asked for help from the National Guard earlier and used those troops to protect businesses from looting in the city’s neighborhoods. They want hearings into the failures detailed in Inspector General Joe Ferguson’s report.
That report says the mayor and superintendent didn’t anticipate the level of violence and looting that swept downtown and cascaded into the city’s neighborhoods from May 29 through June 1.
The 124-page report quoted members of Brown’s own command staff anonymously complaining no real plan was in place to mobilize officers to quell the disorder. One senior police official said, “This can never happen again.”
Lightfoot’s office released a statement saying Brown has “owned responsibility” for the failures, “embraced the opportunity to do better” and put reforms in place.
But Ald. Ray Lopez (15th) said “Brown is of no value to the city at this point” and should be fired.
“He has presided over dysfunction — civil unrest and the doubling of carjackings and other crime stats, including murders,” Lopez said.
Lopez, a frequent critic of Lightfoot, said the mayor offered “naïve leadership at its worst” during the riots.
The protests stemmed from the May 25 death of George Floyd, a Black man who died after a police officer in Minneapolis knelt on his neck.
On May 28, Minnesota’s governor declared a state of emergency and activated National Guard troops.
Officials in Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration told the inspector general they approached the city’s 911 center “in the days leading up to May 30” to see if Chicago needed help from the National Guard or Illinois State Police.
Lightfoot says she decided to call the governor late Saturday, on May 30, to request the Guard after Brown asked for more “resources,” according to the inspector general’s report. She denied the state reached out first, the report said.
The National Guard initially deployed 375 military police officers. Late that Sunday, the city asked for another 250.
State officials wanted to deploy military police officers from the National Guard, but the city didn’t use them to patrol neighborhoods that Sunday “because the mayor’s office did not want the National Guard exercising police powers,” the report said, adding that police leaders “were concerned about having a militarized appearance in the neighborhoods.”
Instead, the National Guard controlled access points into downtown and State Police troopers made arrests on behalf of the Guard, the report said.
Lopez and Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) blasted Lightfoot for not involving the National Guard earlier or using them in the city’s neighborhoods.
“We were offered the National Guard and I requested the National Guard, and we were told ‘no,’” Beale said. “It seems like we voluntarily gave the city up — her and the superintendent. They were more interested in protecting the image than protecting the city.”
Beale called for City Council hearings to get “straight answers” on how Lightfoot and Brown handled the crisis.
Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara called that weekend a “s---show.”
“This falls directly on the mayor’s doorstep. That Friday morning meeting I had with her, she was explicit in her very vulgar language that there was no way those riots were coming to Chicago. They were not burning her buildings and her squad cars,” Catanzara said.
“Since the IG’s office has definitely shined the light on the immense failure that the mayor was during this historic riot time in Chicago, where are the 36 aldermen calling for her resignation like they did mine?” he said.
Catanzara also reacted to the inspector general’s findings that cops underreported their uses of force, including baton strikes.
“We’re allowed to defend ourselves like anyone else,” he said.
Some officers covered up their name tags with tape to keep protesters from being able to identify them, the report said.
Sheila Bedi, a lawyer who represents activists suing the police over their tactics during last summer’s unrest, said the inspector general’s report “confirms what the city of Chicago saw night after night during the protests, that police officers responded to protests against police racism and violence with racism, violence and brutality.”
“It also affirmed that this is not a ‘bad apple’ issue, that this is about the systematic failures of the Chicago Police Department, about the ways in which the department consistently reverts to violence and essentially that that is the default of the organization,” said Bedi, a Northwestern University law professor.
The inspector general’s report, which was released on Thursday morning, found:
- Anti-police demonstrations were gathering strength across the country after George Floyd’s death in Minnesota. But Brown said he “had not seen any reason for concern leading into that weekend,” and Lightfoot said she didn’t assume there was a “potential for peaceful protests to turn violent.”
- Many officers didn’t have body cameras because they reported for duty at Guaranteed Rate Field instead of police districts where the equipment is kept. That will limit the footage the police department might need to defend officers’ actions or discipline them for misconduct.
- So many police vehicles were destroyed by rioters that officials scoured the state to rent 133 vans to transport officers.
- The mayor’s decision to raise the Chicago River bridges and stop CTA trains from entering downtown to keep out looters may have backfired by trapping protesters there. And in 2012, the police department dismissed the idea of raising bridges to control crowds during the NATO summit because it was deemed an “ineffective tool.”
- Police tried to keep the department’s “after-action review” of that weekend out of the hands of the inspector general, claiming it was subject to attorney-client privilege but eventually agreed to turn it over on Feb. 3.