Lightfoot: Latest challenger’s call for top cop’s ouster ‘astounding,’ progress on crime is ‘remarkable’
The mayor expressed “total confidence” in CPD Supt. David Brown and said mayoral challenger Ald. Sophia King and others calling for Brown’s removal sound like people who “don’t know anything about public safety.”
Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Wednesday reiterated her “total confidence” in Chicago Police Supt. David Brown and said, given the “remarkable” progress Brown has made, it is “astounding” her latest mayoral challenger, Ald. Sophia King (4th), would target him for firing.
King, chairman of the City Council’s Progressive Caucus, told the Sun-Times Tuesday that violent crime is the “No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3” issue with Chicago voters.
She said she would start attacking the problem by firing Brown, calling him the “wrong choice to lead CPD.”
King further argued Brown was wrong to “take officers out of the neighborhoods” when they “should be on their beats building relationships.”
On Wednesday, Lightfoot fired back in a way that insulted the Progressive Caucus chair, with whom she has had an increasingly contentious relationship.
Every mayoral challenger has vowed to dump Brown, a former Dallas police chief, Lightfoot noted.
“And I say the exact same thing when you ask me the question. I have total confidence in David Brown. We’re making remarkable progress. We’re down over 16% in homicides. Almost 20% in shootings. You don’t get that without a determined, focused leader at the helm,” Lightfoot said, though she did not address the surge in violent crime downtown and on the CTA, and the continued spike in carjackings.
The mayor urged reporters to focus on what she called “the realities of what’s happening in our city when it comes to violent crime” and on the “incredible progress” being made.
“We’ve got more to do. Nobody’s taking a victory lap, least of all me. ... We’ve got to remain focused and diligent. But in the face of these remarkable accomplishments, it’s astounding that people would even question a change in leadership now,” Lightfoot said.
“That would be foolish and, frankly, it suggests to me people that don’t know anything about public safety [or] local policing,” she added. Brown “has my total confidence. You keep asking me the question. And I’m gonna give you the exact same answer every single time.”
Ald. Jason Ervin (28th), chairman of the City Council’s Black Caucus, responded to King’s entry into the mayor’s race with an ominous warning about the risk of repeating past mistakes with too many Black candidates dividing a diminishing African-American vote.
Ervin is among a handful of Black alderpersons who endorsed Lightfoot early. Wednesday, he argued the African American community hasn’t “seen or felt this level of commitment from the mayor’s office since the days of Harold Washington.”
He then harkened back to the bitter split between then council members Eugene Sawyer and Tim Evans that paved the way for the 1989 election of Mayor Richard M. Daley.
“We must come together and remain united. While everyone has a right to run, with so many black candidates in the race and more expected to enter, we run the risk of losing it all,” Ervin was quoted as saying in a news release.
“As a community, it behooves us to come together and figure this out or end up walking away with nothing.”
As for the impact of King’s entry into the race, Lightfoot said she remains focused on her top priorities: improving public safety and delivering an “equitable and inclusive recovery” from the pandemic.
“If I continue to do that, I feel very optimistic about reelection,” she said.
The reason for Lightfoot’s steadfast support of Brown is simple.
The mayor had her sights set on Brown from the moment she fired Eddie Johnson after a drinking and driving incident in October 2019 that left him slumped over the wheel of his police SUV near his Bridgeport home.
Lightfoot had been infuriated in 2016, when then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel picked Johnson — ignoring the nationwide search she had led as Police Board president. Lightfoot said then the selection process “only has legitimacy if you follow it.”
But she didn’t follow her own advice, choosing Brown a day after the Police Board made public its three finalists. She’d made certain the other two finalists had nowhere near Brown’s experience.
That helps to explain why, countless times during Brown’s nearly two-and-a-half-year tenure, Lightfoot has publicly shot down what she called “dangerous, destabilizing and insulting” rumors that Brown was on his way out.
In April 2021, the mayor brushed aside complaints from a handful of aldermen that Brown has been about as low-profile a superintendent as Chicago has ever had, even during high-profile cases like the fatal police shooting of 13-year-old Adam Toledo.
“The superintendent has been appropriately present in the right places at the right time. He has been out in the community. ... He has been out there at roll calls and doing what, I think, a superintendent must do,” she said, especially one “who is still forming relationships with a range of different people.”
Lightfoot said then that “standing up and holding a press conference in full regalia” is not the measure of leadership — it’s the “quiet things you do sometimes to build real, authentic relationships” and “be there” for people who need help.
“That is the way that David Brown leads, and I support him a thousand-plus percent,” she said.
King’s recipe for attacking violent crime doesn’t stop at ousting Brown as superintendent.
She’s also talking about giving “burned-out, overscheduled and underappreciated” police officers more time off and authorizing incentives needed to fill 1,408 police vacancies.
The alderperson said she would also take a serious look at restoring some or all of the 614 police vacancies that Lightfoot eliminated to help balance her 2021 budget.