Chicago police officers upset with Mayor Lori Lightfoot over her reform policies are also directing their anger at the Chicago Police Department’s second-in-command.
First Deputy Supt. Eric Carter infuriated officers gathered Saturday night at the Cook County medical examiner’s office to give their slain colleague Ella French a final send-off.
Ignoring a sacred ritual, Carter impatiently declared: “We don’t have 20 minutes for this s---.” He demanded the Chicago Fire Department ambulance bearing French’s body be taken directly into the medical examiner’s office, skipping the Emerald Society’s traditional playing of bagpipes.
“We’re not waiting on the bagpipes. Go ahead and get the vehicle inside,” Carter is heard saying on a recording.
“Take it all the way inside. Do not stop.”
Former police Supt. Garry McCarthy said the time-honored ritual tied to the line-of-duty death of a Chicago police officer is “sacred.” For the department’s second-in-command to ignore it is not only a sacrilege, it’s an “inexcusable” affront to the rank-and-file officers Carter is assigned to lead, he said.
“When Cliff Lewis got killed and his fiancée came to the hospital, I took her into another room and I sat her down and explained to her what had occurred. And she completely lost it. When I say lost it, she was basically rolling around on the floor,” McCarthy said Tuesday.
“You know what I did? I was on the ER floor of Christ Hospital rolling around with her trying to hold onto her and comfort her. The sensitivity of an officer being killed. The handling of the family. The handling of the body. It’s kind of sacred.”
Asked about Carter ordering the process to be sped up, McCarthy said, “There’s always enough time. Let’s put it that way. If we had to wait two or three days, I would have done it.”
Asked whether Carter can regain the respect of rank-and-file officers, McCarthy said, “It would be a stretch to think that they would want to get behind a leader who doesn’t respect something that sacred.”
Ald. Anthony Napolitano (41st) has served the city as both a firefighter and police officer. His Far Northwest Side ward is home to many Chicago police officers.
Napolitano acknowledged Carter was under enormous stress on the night French was killed and her partner was seriously wounded. But, he said, that’s no excuse for his cavalier behavior.
“Give them just that respect at that time, which those officers needed because this is what creates that post-traumatic stress that they go through constantly in this war zone of a city that we have. To take that away from them in that moment was wrong,” Napolitano said.
“I hope it was just a miscalculation or something done in error. But the way that was presented, the way that looks, that is just terrible. You don’t do that to your soldiers at all.”
CPD spokesman Don Terry was asked whether Supt. David Brown agrees with the way his top deputy handled the situation at the medical examiner’s office.
“No comment beyond reminding you of what an emotionally difficult and painful night that was — and continues to be — for everyone involved,” Terry wrote in an email to the Sun-Times.
The mayor’s office declined to comment.
Lightfoot is facing her own political backlash after a Saturday night traffic stop in West Englewood left French dead and her partner fighting for his life after being shot by one of the men in the stopped car.
The mayor was told repeatedly that the wounded officer’s father, a retired Chicago police officer himself, didn’t want her on the floor of the University of Chicago Medical Center where his son was being treated in the intensive care unit. But Lightfoot ignored his wishes and got a tongue-lashing from the father.
Shortly after, Lightfoot walked out into the hallway and suffered a final indignity. Officers gathered to pray for French and her wounded partner turned their backs on the mayor as she approached.