Interim Chicago Police Supt. Charlie Beck was accused Tuesday of jumping the gun when he stripped two officers involved in a shooting at the CTA’s Grand Red Line station of their police powers.
“They should have waited until the investigation has been completed before they make any decision like that,” Fraternal Order of Police President Kevin Graham told the Chicago Sun-Times.
“Once again, the city has made unilateral decisions before they have even gotten statements out of the officers.”
Mayor Lori Lightfoot tweeted her concerns about cellphone video of the Feb. 28 shooting shortly after it went viral on social media.
With the “strong caveat that one perspective does not depict the entirety of the incident,” the mayor called the video “extremely disturbing” and the officers’ actions “deeply concerning.”
Graham refused to sit in judgment of the video. Nor would he say whether an offender seen jumping between CTA cars was worth chasing and apprehending at all, let alone in a crowded station during rush hour.
He would only say, “The job of police officers is to enforce the law. And certainly, they were enforcing the law that day.”
Graham noted that, just hours before the shooting, Lightfoot and Beck had jointly launched a crackdown on CTA crime that called for bolstering the Mass Transit Unit by 50 officers, assigning four detectives exclusively to solving CTA crimes and building a strategic deployment center specifically for mass transit.
Officers assigned to the Mass Transit Unit, including the two involved in the shooting, were told to get tough on the little things — like car-jumping — that can lead to bigger things, like cellphone robberies, Graham said.
“They were under new orders to try and curtail the crime on the CTA,” said Graham, who is involved in a run-off election after finishing a distant second to John Catanzara.
“When you’re going to ramp up the law enforcement aspect, there certainly may be conflicts.”
Police Department spokesman Tom Ahern had no immediate comment on Graham’s complaints.
Beck acted to strip the two officers of their police powers at the behest of Sydney Roberts, chief administrator of the Civilian Office of Police Accountability.
Citing, what she called the “serious nature of both officers’ actions,” Roberts said she “felt it was necessary to recommend the officers involved be relieved of police powers while we continue to investigate this incident.”
Gloria Schmidt Rodriguez, the attorney representing the man who was shot, urged Beck and the Police Board to “act swiftly to facilitate the firing of these rogue officers as they clearly are not fit for duty as Chicago police officers.”
In early December Graham similarly accused Lightfoot of firing Police Supt. Eddie Johnson before the inspector general had heard Johnson’s side of the drinking and driving story to make the case for hiring an outsider as superintendent.
In that case, Graham argued that it was a matter of due process denied and an inspector general with a history of “swaying things the way he likes to see them.”
“If you take disciplinary action before the investigation has been complete or there has not even been a statement given, I would say that’s premature,” Graham told the Sun-Times then.
”It’s not about Eddie Johnson. It’s about any police officer getting fair and due process. Until you have that, you are not going to have change in this city. There is going to be a division as to whether or not people are skeptical about the police because you’re not treating the police fairly.”
Last month’s shooting occurred shortly after 4 p.m. at the start of the Friday evening rush. The two officers saw a man passing between cars on a Red Line train.
The officers and the man — who was unarmed — got off the train at the Grand station in River North. In the viral video, the two officers can be seen struggling to arrest the man, who was trying to free himself and ignoring their commands to stop resisting.
Two deployed stun guns could be seen on the floor, and a female officer could be seen using pepper spray on the man while her partner tries to restrain him. Her partner, a male officer, repeatedly tells her to “shoot him.”
After the man wriggles free and stands up, the female officer fires a shot. The man runs up a set of stairs and the female officer fires again. He was hospitalized with gunshot wounds to his hip and buttocks, but has since been released.