Mayor Lori Lightfoot should give her top cop a few months more to get a handle on Chicago’s “crime pandemic” — but if he can’t, she should dump Police Supt. David Brown and his leadership team, her deputy floor leader said Thursday.
“I am not at all ... happy with CPD and their leadership. They need to step up in a big way and stop this crime pandemic themselves. They need to find a way to recruit more people. That’s on them. The mayor can only do so much. That’s on that leadership,” Ald. George Cardenas (12th) told the Chicago Sun-Times.
“And I will urge the mayor — if that is not happening, she ought to change that leadership immediately.”
Does that mean giving the ax to the retired Dallas police chief?
“I said the leadership. That means the entire group if things don’t change as we get into 2022,” Cardenas said.
“If things don’t change and there’s not a different plan to deliver safety for Chicago — to deliver justice in the way people expect — then we need to bring in [someone else]. You’ve got to make the changes when things aren’t working out.”
But the mayor responded coolly to the comments about her hand-picked chief.
“The statements attributed to Alderman George Cardenas are ill-informed and lack an appreciation for the complexities of public safety in this time of COVID,” she said in a statement late Thursday. “If the solutions were easy, we would have solved the challenge long ago, but they are not. The root causes of community violence are deep, complex, and generations in the making.”
The statement continued: “We are focused on fighting gangs, taking dangerous guns off the street, and continuing to make investments that we know will solve these problems in the short term and long term. We have to continue to push our partners at all levels to hold themselves accountable, and anyone who wants to join me and Superintendent Brown is welcome to join that fight.”
Shortly after taking office, Brown told his deputies he wanted to hold Chicago murders under 300 a year for the first time since 1957. He called it one of his “moonshot” goals.
Instead, Chicago has recorded 715 murders with more than a month to go in 2021. That’s up 3% from last year’s alarming level and 59% from 2019.
Through Nov. 16, Chicago has seen 3,975 people shot, compared to 3,671 people in 2020, an increase of 8%, and compared to 2,352 shooting victims in 2019, an increase of 69%, according to the department’s most recent data.
Carjackings have spiked even more. The number of carjacking victims has risen almost 31% through Nov. 16 with 1,807 people carjacked compared with 1,380 people through the same date in 2020. Carjacking victims have nearly tripled from the 615 in 2019.
Lightfoot had her sights set on Brown from the moment she fired Eddie Johnson for “lying to me and lying to the public” 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.
A former Chicago Police Board president whose recommendations were ignored by former Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Lightfoot said the selection process “only has legitimacy if you follow it.”
But she ignored her own advice and chose Brown one day after the Police Board made public its list of three finalists and made certain that the other two finalists had nowhere near Brown’s experience so that the choice would appear obvious.
That helps to explain why, at least six times during Brown’s 19-month 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 aldermen that Brown has been about as low-profile a superintendent as Chicago has ever had even during high-profile cases like the 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 who is still forming relationships with a range of different people,” the mayor said.
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.
Just this week, the mayor argued that except for murders, shootings and carjackings, “every other category” of crime is down.
She also cited significant progress in detectives solving homicides — from the dismal teens to 45% — and pressured Magnificent Mile merchants victimized repeatedly by smash-and-grab robberies to do more to improve their own security.