Afternoon Edition: March 28, 2022

Today’s update is a 5-minute read that will brief you on the day’s biggest stories.

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Mayor Lori Lightfoot arrives with her security detail at a South Side news conference in May 2021.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times file

Good afternoon. Here’s the latest news you need to know in Chicago. It’s about a 5-minute read that will brief you on today’s biggest stories.

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Afternoon Edition
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Dozens of Chicago cops guard mayor and family in below-the-radar security unit created in 2020

Nearly two years ago, the Chicago Police Department quietly created a special unit to protect Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s home and City Hall and oversee her personal bodyguard detail.

Unit 544 began with a handful of officers and has grown, as of March 21, to a roster of 65 officers, five sergeants and a lieutenant, city records show.

Like previous Chicago mayors, Lightfoot also has a separate personal bodyguard detail, which includes about 20 officers, the records show.

On July 7, 2020, the police department sent a memo to rank-and-file officers saying they could apply to the new Unit 544, also called the Government Security Detail.

“The unit’s mission will be to provide physical security for City Hall, the mayor’s residence and the mayor’s detail command post,” the memo said. “Through the coordination of intelligence and resources, officers will respond to all threats related to the mayor’s physical properties to ensure its protection.”

The unit was limited to officers with at least five years on the job. The desired qualifications included “experience in providing security and property protection services.” But there hasn’t been any specialized training for the unit, according to the police department’s response to a public records request.

Around the same time the unit was being formed in the summer of 2020, residents of Humboldt Park and Logan Square were complaining that the Shakespeare district, which covers their neighborhoods, was getting stretched thin because so many patrol officers there were being assigned to keep protesters from gathering outside Lightfoot’s house in Logan Square.

In an interview, Lightfoot said the decision to create Unit 544 wasn’t related to the criticism over Shakespeare officers being posted near her house.

Read more from Frank Main and Fran Spielman.

More news you need

A Chicago man has been accused of killing two people and holding a woman against her will inside a home in Gresham on the South Side, according to authorities. Jamie Jones, 31, faces felony charges including first-degree murder, police said.

Chicago’s 11th Ward, a longtime base of power for the Daley family, is now represented by the City Council’s first-ever Asian American woman after the unanimous confirmation of Nicole Lee this afternoon. Fran Spielman has more on the city’s newest City Council member.

Seeing the faces of people being interviewed virtually during the heart of the pandemic gave Wicker Park artist Megan Williamson a bit of hope, so she decided to create something out of her experiences. Williamson’s project consists of 100 small paintings of people who appeared in the media via Zoom during the height of the pandemic.

In his latest update on the Chicago casino process, David Roeder looks at what the city’s elimination of two proposals last week says about the remaining three options. Check out Roeder’s full breakdown in this week’s Chicago Enterprise column.

One of Chicago’s beloved bakeries had a rough weekend as a car smashed through its front window early Sunday before crashing into the shop’s new walk-in freezer. Stephanie Hart, the owner of Brown Sugar Bakery, said the bakery managed to open Sunday despite the accident thanks to help from volunteers and a quick police response.

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A bright one

Austin anti-violence program shows West Side youth the world

Cedric Stewart has lived his whole life in Austin. He grew up shy — could hardly look at people when he talked to them — and had never traveled outside the West Side. But that all changed in 2017 when he joined Crystal Dyer’s Chicago Austin Youth Travel Adventures. 

“I was in a shell,” said Stewart, now 24. “You couldn’t get me to do anything. But being in different parts of the city, it opened up my horizons.”

Chicago Austin Youth Travel Adventures does that by exposing young people from underprivileged neighborhoods to other cultures, their own city and even career opportunities. But at its core, Dyer said, CAYTA is an anti-violence program.


Crystal Dyer, founder of Chicago Austin Youth Travel Adventures, watches volunteer Cedric Stewart, 24, demonstrate how to book a vacation at the nonprofit’s headquarters, 5940 W. Chicago Ave., in the Austin neighborhood on Chicago’s West Side.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

The group, incorporated in 2015, offers programming for ages 8 to 23. There’s a $25 yearly membership fee — though scholarships help those who cannot afford it. Paused for two years by COVID-19, it will restart on April 1. 

Dyer grew up in Englewood but was living in Atlanta in 2011 when her 18-year-old grandson was shot and killed. As she ran through the airport to catch a flight home, she already was thinking: What can I do to really help?

“I have three sons, and what helped them to be more progressive, to learn about life and the world, was travel,” said Dyer. “I thought … I can create a program where I can get kids out of their heads and into the world so they can be less sensitive to certain things which increase violence.”

Read Cheyanne M. Daniels’ full story here.

From the press box

Your daily question ☕

What was your favorite movie released in 2021? Why?

Send us an email at and we might feature your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

On Friday, we asked you: What is the greatest rom-com of all time? Tell us why. Here’s what some of you said...

“‘When Harry Met Sally.’ Amazing actors and dialogue.” — Pat Campbell

“The only right answer is ‘50 First Dates.’” — Jake Snyder

“‘Murphy’s Romance.’ Sally Field and James Garner. Divorcee moves to small town. Ex-husband tries to win her back while she slowly falls in love with older man. Lot’s of funny situations!” — Mary Skibicki

“My personal favorite is the remake of ‘Sabrina.’ Smart, funny script. Wonderful performances by Julia Ormond, Harrison Ford, Greg Kinnear, and Nancy Marchand. And a score by John Williams. Less silly than the original.” — Edward Zelnis

“‘Bringing up Baby.’ Screwball comedy at its best. Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant play perfectly off each other - this not being the first stint as costars - and their physical comedy timing is impeccable.” — Peter F. Holm

Thanks for reading the Chicago Sun-Times Afternoon Edition.Got a story you think we missed? Email us here.

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