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Slowdown in police activity is due to a ‘month of civic uprising,’ mayor says

Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Wednesday categorically denied the police union’s claim that officers have returned to a defensive crouch not seen since 2015 because they fear she won’t back them.

A man is taken into custody on June 1, 2020 as Chicago police officers clash with hundreds of protesters outside a store that had been looted near East 71st Street and South Chappel Avenue.
A man is taken into custody in June as Chicago police officers clash with hundreds of protesters outside a store that had been looted near East 71st Street and South Chappel Avenue.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Wednesday traced a June decline in police activity to demonstrations tied to the death of George Floyd, categorically denying that Chicago cops had returned to a defensive crouch because they fear she won’t back them.

Lightfoot said June was a “month of civic uprising” and police officers were tied up “making sure that people could safely” express their First Amendment rights.

“The first two weeks in June, we had probably five-to-10 marches every single day. So, yeah, they weren’t making traffic stops and they weren’t making a lot of arrests because they were busy in making sure that the people [who] were out in the streets in their righteous indignation over the murder of George Floyd were able to express themselves safely.”

The Sun-Times reported this week that as murders soared during the month of June, police activity plummeted.

During the first 28 days of June, the number of murders was up 83% compared to the same period a year ago. Meanwhile, arrests were down 55%. Street stops fell by 74% and traffic stops dropped by 86%.

Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara has blamed rock-bottom morale and distrust of Lightfoot for the dramatic slowdown in police activity.

Lightfoot said that’s little more than posturing tied to her demand for disciplinary changes in the new police contract.

“That’s easy for the leadership of the FOP to mouth those words because we’re in what they know are gonna be really, really, really tough contract talks. … You’re gonna hear a lot of noise from the FOP. That’s part of the game,” the mayor said.

Fresh from a victory in arbitration with police supervisors that won her the right to accept anonymous complaints, Lightfoot said she is determined to “win” a similar victory over the FOP to make it easier to investigate and discipline wayward officers.

“We’re gonna make sure — just like we did with the sergeants, lieutenants and captains contract — that the FOP contract, for the first time in our history, is actually gonna speak the values of the residents of Chicago,” she said.

In the fall of 2015, then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel contended during a closed-door meeting with then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch and 20 big-city mayors and police chiefs that police officers across the nation were becoming “fetal” because they were afraid their videotaped encounters with the public will end up on YouTube.

Less than two months later, the pullback by Chicago Police officers got dramatically worse, after the court-ordered release of the video showing white police officer Jason Van Dyke shooting black teenager Laquan McDonald 16 times.

On Wednesday, Lightfoot scoffed at those who say police officers have gone fetal again for fear of being caught on the next cellphone video gone viral.

The mayor noted that, during a 10-day period in June, Chicago Police officers took “almost 600 illegal crime guns off the street.”

“You can’t take that level of guns off the street, which is an historic number in a 10-day period — unless you’re doing your job. Unless you’re putting hands on folks and you’re taking guns off of people who would do harm in our streets,” the mayor said.

“To judge June out of context and not throw in there, by the way, these guys are hustling and doing a lot of work — that doesn’t make any sense to me.”

Catanzara has argued the pullback by police officers is undeniable. The anti-police movement sweeping the nation after Floyd’s death is “worse than Laquan McDonald” in part because of Lightfoot, he said.

“After the McDonald shooting, there were outcries for police change, but nothing at this level or volume. And as much as people despised Rahm, there was a little support at least or understanding that this was an isolated incident. It wasn’t a call from the fifth floor of City Hall to fire every police officer who did every little, tiny transgression. ... But, that is exactly what our members are facing from Mayor Lightfoot,” he said.

“Of course, it’s going to cause officers to pause and say, ‘I want to go home today safe. I want to make sure I keep my job. And I want to make sure I don’t go to jail.’ … It’s not going to be ‘react first,’ unless it’s a life-and-death situation. They’re going to stop and think first before they act.”