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19 aldermen call special City Council meeting for Friday on violent crime

If Chicago Police Supt. David Brown doesn’t show to testify before them, the aldermen say they will take a vote of no-confidence in his leadership. But they’ll need a quorum for that — meaning seven more aldermen have to show up.

Aldermen in the Chicago City Council chambers for the meeting on Friday, June 26, 2021.
Aldermen in the Chicago City Council chambers for last Friday’s meeting. A special virtual meeting for this Friday has been called by 19 aldermen, but they can’t actually hold an official meeting unless seven others show up at their online gathering to form a quorum. The group of aldermen want CPD Supt. David Brown to show up to discuss policing strategies for the Fourth of July holiday weekend.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Nineteen aldermen are calling a special virtual Chicago City Council meeting for 11 a.m. Friday — and threatening to take a vote of no-confidence in Chicago Police Supt. David Brown if he doesn’t show up to testify — about police response to the bloodbath on Chicago streets.

A quorum of 26 aldermen are needed to convene and meet as a committee of the whole to take testimony from Brown or take the vote of no-confidence if he fails to appear. That means that seven aldermen who did not sign the call for a special meeting would have to show up anyway.

Whether or not that will happen is anybody’s guess. Six aldermen have already peeled off in the last 24 hours under pressure from the mayor’s office.

“All we can do is hope for the best. … We’ve got 19 that signed on. There may be a few that show up. And of course, there may be a few that don’t,” said Ald. Anthony Beale (9th), one of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s most outspoken City Council critics.

“I just don’t understand why we would not have 50 aldermen there seeing that crime is high. Shootings are high. Carjackings are high. We want to know what the strategy is going forward. … The only plan that we ever hear is, ‘We’re going to cancel days off. We’re gonna deploy police to a certain area.’ But, police are tired. They’re fatigued. They’re exhausted. We have to have a different approach than the status quo because the status quo is not working.”

Ald. Ray Lopez (15th) said aldermen had to call the special meeting after their efforts to try to “work with the administration to have a Public Safety Committee meeting failed.”

Lopez flatly predicted a quorum, though six aldermen have peeled off. He noted “a number” of aldermen who didn’t sign the letter “did express support for the meeting and intend to be there.”

“We can no longer sit by and wait for Lightfoot or Brown to get to the eventuality of telling us what they are going to do. Our residents want to see us step up as they see Lightfoot and Brown step back,” Lopez said.

Lopez said he hopes Brown shows up to answer questions and that it doesn’t come to a no-confidence vote that would mirror what the Fraternal Order of Police already has done.

“I would prefer that David Brown man up and do his job. But if this is what it takes to force him to stand up, then so be it. He had a stellar reputation before his arrival. I want the David Brown that I was promised — not the David Brown who was delivered,” Lopez said.

“The David Brown in Dallas was a very aggressive, yet positive law enforcement official. He was someone who did what he had to do to keep Dallas safe. Willing to be collaborative. Willing to be independent. … What we got is the David Brown who is just an overpaid spokesperson for the fifth floor, regurgitating all of the bad policies that come from the mayor’s office.”

Pressed to define those “bad policies,” Lopez accused Brown of “depleting” neighborhood police districts, expanding and duplicating citywide teams and “over-working and exhausting” Chicago police officers by canceling days off and forcing them to work shifts as long as 17 hours.

If Brown continues on this path, Lopez warned the tidal wave of police retirements “will turn into a tsunami.”

Chicago Police Department spokesman Tom Ahern wouldn’t say if Brown would attend the special meeting. Brown has planned a news conference for Thursday, presumably to unveil his plan to prevent a third straight weekend of mass shootings over the coming holiday weekend.

Last year, Beale and Lopez called a special Council meeting over their demand that Lightfoot call out the National Guard after civil unrest triggered by the death of George Floyd devolved into two devastating rounds of looting.

They had a quorum. Even Lightfoot and her Council allies showed up. But their resolution declaring a state of emergency that would set the stage for the National Guard to assist overworked police officers was defeated.

“We lost the vote. However, the strategy that was in place didn’t work. Crime was down in my ward. Since he implemented his new strategy from last year, my crime has skyrocketed. That’s not working. We need to change the approach,” Beale said.

Ald. Matt O’Shea (19th), Lightfoot’s hand-picked Aviation Committee chairman, is among the 19 aldermen joining the call for the special meeting.

O’Shea was asked whether he was prepared to take a vote of no-confidence in Brown.

“I’ve never had any discussions with any of my colleagues about that. I don’t know where that emanated from,” he said.

“I’m interested in Superintendent Brown sitting before us, answering questions and telling us what the plan is moving forward about officer deployment, officers remaining in and working in the districts and about officer health and wellness.”