Lightfoot strongly backs top cop David Brown despite police supervisors’ lack of confidence in his leadership

“Supt. Brown is trying to change the culture of a police department where the status quo served a lot of people, but frankly didn’t serve the residents of the city in keeping them safe,” the mayor said in a Zoom call from Washington D.C.

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Mayor Lori Lightfoot, right, listens as Chicago Police Supt. David Brown speaks to reporters at a press conference at Chicago Police Headquarters on Jan. 4, 2022.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot, right, listens as Chicago Police Supt. David Brown speaks to reporters at a press conference going over violence prevention in 2022 at Chicago Police Headquarters on Jan. 4.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Members of the Chicago Police Department’s command staff who have claimed to have lost faith in Police Supt. David Brown are a bunch of “cowards” who want to perpetuate a status quo that served police brass, but not the public, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Thursday.

The Sun-Times reported this week Brown is facing a crisis of confidence among his own command staff after the deadliest year in a quarter century in Chicago.

The unrelenting violence prompted Lightfoot and Brown to end the old year and begin the new one by threatening to demote members of the police command staff who fail to produce more arrests and meet their demand for 1.5 million positive interactions with the community by the end of 2022.

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The warning prompted four police supervisors — who asked that their names not be used in print so they could speak freely without facing reprisals — to tell the Sun-Times they had lost confidence in Brown.

“We all agreed Brown was driving CPD into the ground. Zero confidence in his ability to lead the department,” said one supervisor, who predicted there could be more than 1,000 citywide homicides this year if Brown stays in power.

On Thursday, Lightfoot dismissed the beefing brass as a bunch of crybabies who lack the guts to attach their names to their complaints and would rather complain than work.

“Supt. Brown is trying to change the culture of a police department where the status quo served a lot of people, but frankly didn’t serve the residents of the city in keeping them safe,” Lightfoot said in a Zoom call from Washington, D.C., where she is attending the annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

“So there’s a level of accountability that the exempt members are facing that they don’t like, but that’s too bad,” she said of police supervisors who are exempt from the rank-and-file union.

She added: “If you’re not willing to do your job, if you’re not willing to get out of your car and engage with members of the public, if you’re not willing to make sure that you are accountable for the work that you do every single day, every shift, then you don’t need to be in the Chicago Police Department. We need an army of the willing. We need men and women who understand the moment that we’re in — that are gonna stand tall and lead by example and hold themselves and other people accountable.”

Lightfoot said what she hears in the complaints is “people who are cowards and want to go back to the old ways that served them, but didn’t serve the people.”

She also disputed Sun-Times coverage of a move by Brown to transfer some tactical team officers back to beat patrols — a move which the supervisors and members of the teams slammed, saying it would hurt the units’ crime prevention efforts.

“What we said to tact teams is, ‘You don’t get to sit in your car and do nothing. If you don’t want to engage with the public and fight crime, then go back, put a uniform on and chase 911 calls.’ I fully support that,” Lightfoot said.

Lightfoot had her sights set on Brown from the moment she fired former Supt. Eddie Johnson about the circumstances surrounding a drinking and driving incident in October 2019 that left him slumped over the wheel of his police SUV near his Bridgeport home.

That helps to explain why, at least seven times during Brown’s nearly two-year tenure, Lightfoot has publicly declared her unwavering support for the superintendent and shot down what she called “dangerous, destabilizing and insulting” rumors that Brown was on his way out.

In April, the mayor brushed aside complaints from a handful of alderpersons that Brown has been about as low-profile a superintendent as Chicago has ever had.

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.”

“That is the way that David Brown leads, and I support him a thousand-plus percent,” she said.

In late November, the mayor’s deputy floor leader advised Lightfoot to give her top cop a few months to get a handle on Chicago’s “crime pandemic” and said if he can’t, she should dump Brown.

Lightfoot called the statements by Ald. George Cardenas (12) “ill-informed” and said they “lack an appreciation for the complexities of public safety in this time of COVID.”

Also on Thursday, the mayor offered another vigorous defense of her stalled ordinance to seize the assets — what she calls “blood money” — from gang leaders. She dismissed complaints from civil rights attorneys that the ordinance will exacerbate racial tensions, sour already fragile police-community relations or target innocent relatives.

“This isn’t an effort to take grandma’s house,” she said.

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