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Lightfoot: Fire police officers who flipped off protesters, covered nametags and badges

“We will not tolerate that kind of abusive, offensive conduct on the part of police officers. Period,” the mayor said

Mayor Lori Lightfoot announces the new Chi COVID Coach Health App during a press conference at City Hall, Monday afternoon, April 27, 2020.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot cautioned Chicagoans not to paint the entire Chicago Police Department with a “broad brush” because of what appears to be the “over-the-top” actions of a few.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times file

Chicago Police officers who covered their badge numbers and nametags and were photographed giving the finger to protesters should be fired, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Friday.

“This is gonna be the superintendent’s call, ultimately. But in my view, they’ve forfeited their right to be Chicago Police officers,” Lightfoot said.

“I’ve seen the photograph of the officer, in uniform, giving people the finger. We’ll find that person. And, in my view, that person needs to immediately be stripped of their police powers and start the process for firing him. We will not tolerate that kind of abusive, offensive conduct on the part of police officers. Period.”

Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara later Friday said flipping off a protester isn’t a fireable offense, but that he would, instead, accept Lightfoot’s resignation for telling the “President of the United States F-you.’”

“Is it professional behavior? No. Is it childish? Maybe a little bit,” Catanzara said.

The mayor said her patience is also wearing thin with Chicago Police officers refusing to wear masks and protective gear provided by the city. If they refuse, they, too, “need to be disciplined,” Lightfoot said.

Having said that, the mayor cautioned Chicagoans not to paint the entire Police Department with a “broad brush” because of the “over-the-top” actions of a few.

“The Chicago Police Department has 13,400 sworn officers. Unfortunately, we’ve seen some — and I think, a few — who have dishonored their badge. And they will be dealt with accordingly. The vast majority of officers who are out there are doing their job the right way. They are engaged in constitutional policing. They’ve leaned into their training,” she said.

“I don’t want to paint with such a broad brush. Just as we’ve seen, unfortunately, some people in the crowd of protesters act in a way that is violent and criminal, we can’t say that the vast majority of protesters are somehow untoward. They’re not. The vast majority of protesters have been out there in the street with righteous indignation.”

Videos and photos of alleged police abuse that have spread on social media have emboldened those who want to “de-fund” the Chicago Police Department, remove officers from Chicago Public Schools and spend the money on social programs.

Lightfoot wasn’t having it.

She’s a former Police Board president who co-chaired the Task Force on Police Accountability that issued a scathing indictment of CPD after the court-ordered release of the Laquan McDonald shooting video.

But she is also a former federal prosecutor and head of the Police Department Office of Professional Standards and supports the new $95 million police academy in West Garfield Park.

After recent looting and mayhem in Chicago, Lightfoot said Friday it makes no sense at all to de-fund the police.

“In talking to people all over the city about the effects of this week, what I’ve heard from people in neighborhoods is they want more police protection — not less,” she said.

“I certainly understand the concern about the amount of money that we spend on policing — not just in Chicago, but throughout the country. But at this time when people are feeling physically insecure, it would dishonor those real expressions to be talking about reducing the amount of safety that we’re gonna be bringing into neighborhoods.”

As for covering badges, Catanzara said that’s “clearly a violation of the general order” though still not a fireable offense, which the mayor “knows darn well.” And he understands why they are covering it; Catanzara alleges police officers’ addresses have been revealed through badge numbers.

“There’s a lot of strange behavior going on in the city right now and people want to protect their families,” he said.

The mayor was equally adamant about keeping police officers in Chicago Public Schools.

“Unfortunately, we need security in our schools. We spent a lot of time a year ago working through challenges that we have seen with police officers in schools. I think we’ve got a very good track record this school year making sure that CPS is in control — that officers are there for a limited purpose. That CPS personnel will deal with ... basic issues regarding students,” Lightfoot said.

“I understand the concern. But I think we’ve struck the right balance. We’ve got a system in place now that works well and shows limited ability of CPD to be in schools. All of that is now in the hands of principals and CPS, which is where it should have been from the very beginning.”

Contributing: Manny Ramos