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Alderman hopes rebuttal of mayor’s objections can salvage Cop House proposal

Roseland is “virtually alone” in Chicago in reducing crime, adding jobs and increasing population, Ald. Anthony Beale noted Monday. So why not “work together on this,” he asked the mayor in a letter.

Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) and Mayor Lori Lightfoot greet one another Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020 at the ceremonial opening of Chicago’s first Amazon Delivery Station, 10500 S. Woodlawn Ave. in Pullman.
Ald. Anthony Beale and Mayor Lori Lightfoot were on the same page when they welcomed an Amazon facility to Pullman in October. But they don’t agree on Beale’s idea for a Chicago police substation in Roseland.
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) on Monday issued a point-by-point rebuttal to counter what he called “erroneous assumptions and misinformation” Mayor Lori Lightfoot used to reject his proposal to turn a home on a crime-plagued block in Roseland into a corporate-bankrolled mecca for community policing.

“I am bewildered by the fact that, as mayor of a city where, in the past two years, crime has skyrocketed, residents have fled and millions has been paid in [police] overtime with little result, you are not embracing this opportunity to do something new and see if it works,” Beale wrote in a letter to the mayor.

Noting that Roseland is “virtually alone” in Chicago in reducing crime, adding jobs and increasing population, the alderman wrote: “Let’s work together on this, embrace a promising experiment and, if it works, make it part of a comprehensive attack on the crime that is undermining the quality of life ... in our communities.”

Beale is one of Lightfoot’s most outspoken City Council critics. He has accused the mayor of stalling his pet idea for 18 months because of their political feud dating back to his outspoken opposition to the mayor’s choice of Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) as Finance Committee chairman.

In a letter to Beale last week, the mayor said she “cannot support” and, therefore, would be “encouraging members to table this discussion” because of concerns about funding, officer security and because the idea runs contrary to the Chicago Police Department’s underlying “community policing strategy.”

Beale’s letter counters all of the mayor’s arguments on the eve of a showdown vote by the Committee on Public Safety he believes he can win.

“Funding is committed. Our funders have asked that their names not be released until the city formally endorses the pilot project. We respect that and, with the detours and delays of the past two years, see the wisdom of their reticence,” Beale wrote.

“Contrary to your assertion, there is NO burden on the Police Department and its budget …No public resources are required other than already-budgeted funds for police personnel as they work in their district … You can be assured that the donor will come forward and locations identified if and when the idea for the pilot is endorsed.”

Beale also branded as “simply not true” Lightfoot’s claim that “longstanding policies … restrict” the Chicago Police Department’s ability to “enter into any contractual relationships with third parties” or “receive donations of any kind.”

In fact, he argued CPD “receives many donations and it enters into contractual arrangements with a variety of anti-violence and police benevolence entities.”

Beale said he was “surprised” by the mayor’s concerns about officer safety at the so-called “cop house.”

“Isn’t the more important question, ‘How can we help the officers protect the community’s safety?’ That is what my constituents and the officers of the 5th District care about,” the alderman wrote.

“You ask, ‘What will be the interior design to ensure the equipment is safeguarded?’ Again, given all the different situations and places from which police operate — from safe houses to squad cars to varied police facilities — I have confidence that the issue of equipment safety is not a new one for the Department and can be worked out.”

The facility has been the subject of five meetings, 200 pages of emails and discussions with three police superintendents.

On Friday, Beale waited through a five-and-a-half-hour subject matter hearing on carjacking, expecting a vote on the “Cop House.” But that vote never came. Instead, Chairman Chris Taliaferro (29th) recessed the meeting until 2 p.m. Tuesday, when a vote is expected.

Beale said he “had the votes” to approve the facility over the mayor’s objections and hopes to prove it Tuesday. If not, he will use a parliamentary maneuver to push for a vote in the full Council on Wednesday.