Lightfoot’s security chief steps down

Lori Lightfoot’s decision to appoint retired Deputy U.S. Marshal James Smith as her security chief last year drew condemnation from the Fraternal Order of Police.

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James Smith (left), a retired deputy U.S. marshal and head of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s security detail, watches as Lightfoot takes a selfie with a supporter after a press conference in the Ellis Park fieldhouse in 2019.

James Smith (left), a retired deputy U.S. marshal and head of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s security detail, watches as Lightfoot takes a selfie with a supporter after a press conference in the Ellis Park fieldhouse in 2019.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

James Smith, the commander of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s security detail, has resigned.

“In July, Jim Smith spoke with the Mayor about the need to leave his command of the Mayor’s detail in the coming weeks,” Lightfoot spokesman Pat Mullane said in a statement Wednesday. “Yesterday was Smith’s last day. The Mayor thanks him for his service.”

Smith also put out a statement, saying the decision was personal.

“During a self-imposed quarantine earlier this summer, I had the opportunity to spend two full weeks with my family. It was the most consecutive time we’ve been together in the last 18 months,” Smith said. “It made me realize how fast my young family is growing up. I have missed so much and will continue to do so if I were to stay in this 24/7 position.”

Smith’s retirement was first reported by the Chicago Tribune.

Lightfoot’s decision last year to appoint the retired deputy U.S. Marshal as her security chief drew swift condemnation from former Fraternal Order of Police President Kevin Graham, who insisted the mayor’s bodyguard detail had been the purview of Chicago police.

Lightfoot brushed off the criticism at the time, saying the police union “is never happy” and called the imbroglio “a tempest in a teapot.” She defended Smith by noting he had “guarded Supreme Court justices [and] high-ranking federal officials who have been under threat.”

After working for the U.S. Marshals Service for three decades, Smith served as a managing member of Silver Star Protection Group, a private security firm. In 2016, the Chicago Sun-Times reported the outfit had been contracted to protect medical cannabis dispensaries in Illinois.

On Wednesday, Smith said it was an “honor and privilege” to serve alongside members of the police department “during one of the most tumultuous times in the city of Chicago.”

In recent months, protesters, urging Lightfoot to substantially cut the police budget and remove cops from schools, have flocked to her Logan Square home. As a result, there has been heavy police presence in the neighborhood — something Lightfoot has defended by citing “specific threats” made against herself and her family.

The news of Smith’s resignation comes a day after the mayor’s office announced that Paul Stewart, Lightfoot’s top pot adviser and assistant deputy mayor, was also out of a job. A City Hall source told the Sun-Times that Stewart was “shocked” when the news came down Monday that he was fired.

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