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Lightfoot starts two days of meetings to combat summer surge of violence

Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot will meet Monday afternoon with law enforcement officials to discuss plans to combat the typical summer increase in crime and violence. | Sun-Times file photo

Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot on Monday convened the first of two days of meetings with city, county and federal law enforcement officials to hammer out details of their joint plan to combat the traditional surge in summer violence.

The first meeting was scheduled to take place at Chicago Police headquarters at 35th Street and South Michigan Avenue. It includes Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, State’s Attorney Kim Foxx and U.S. Attorney John Lausch.

On Tuesday, Lightfoot is scheduled to huddle with “city departments and agencies” to get a “holistic view” of the summer violence strategy.

“To our knowledge this is the first time that all public safety stakeholders have gathered to strategize around public safety,” Lightfoot transition spokesperson Anel Ruiz wrote in a text message to the Sun-Times.

“It was important for the Mayor-elect to do this before Memorial Day so that we have a plan in place for the summer and beyond.”

It’s the second time this month Lightfoot has homed in on the plan to keep Chicago safe this summer, beginning with a Memorial Day weekend that routinely turns violent.

“This is an example of the seamless transition the Mayor is demanding of his staff,” CPD spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said in an email to the Sun-Times. “The Mayor’s office made sure all the commissioners could convene to brief her.”

After the meeting Monday, Lightfoot reiterated what she said repeatedly during the mayoral campaign.

Some South and West Side neighborhoods are “persistently violent” — to the point where residents are “afraid to come out of their homes” and kids “can’t walk down the street or ride their bicycles.”

“This is unacceptable,” she said.

Lightfoot acknowledged that Johnson and his team are “working very hard and diligently” to solve the problem.

But she said, “We’re gonna bring a new emphasis and focus to making sure we move the needle in some of these most distressed neighborhoods.”

On the day after her landslide victory, Lightfoot met with Johnson at police headquarters.

Johnson came away from that meeting “very encouraged” about being allowed to keep his $260,044-a-year job. Lightfoot was non-committal.

In an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, Lightfoot said she likes Johnson personally. She’s pleased the superintendent has finally acknowledged some Chicago Police officers “look the other way” when it comes to reporting police misconduct.

But she hasn’t made a final decision on whether to retain him and won’t until he sees how well he handles three “big issues” the Chicago Police Department is wrestling with: daily violence, the consent decree and having a plan to curb the traditional summer surge of violence.

“I’m gonna lay out very clear metrics and milestones that I expect him and the department to meet. And then, once we see what the summer is like, we’ll have that conversation,” Lightfoot said then.

“I like him. I have a good working relationship with him. I want him to be successful because, literally, the lives of our children depend on it. But I’m gonna be a boss who is gonna hold people accountable. … That’s what the voters expect. And I’m not gonna cut corners no matter what my personal relationship with someone might be.”

The focus on preventing summer violence should be a welcome respite for Foxx.

Foxx has been under fire for dropping the charges against Jussie Smollett without an admission of guilt or an apology for, according to Chicago Police, orchestrating a hate crime hoax against himself.

Instead, the “Empire” actor was allowed to walk after forfeiting the $10,000 in bond money he put up and spending two days performing community service at Rainbow PUSH.

Foxx faced intense scrutiny even before that for attempting to persuade Johnson to transfer the investigation to the FBI at a time when Smollett was still viewed as the victim of a hate crime.

At the time, Foxx had been contacted by an influential supporter of the “Empire” actor: Tina Tchen, a Chicago attorney and former chief of staff for former first lady Michelle Obama.

Foxx recused herself, but never did so formally. She initially claimed the police investigation produced strong evidence that Smollett engineered a hate crime hoax, then said there were problems with the evidence.

Foxx has asked Cook County Inspector General Patrick Blanchard to investigate her office’s handling of the Jussie Smollett case.

The state’s attorney’s office subsequently released pile of emails that added even more fuel to the fire.

Although Foxx publicly claimed to have recused herself, she texted the top deputy she put in charge of the Smollett case the day a grand jury handed up the 16-count indictment against Smollett; police said he staged a hate crime hoax against himself.

In her text, Foxx made an unfavorable comparison to the counts against R. Kelly filed just weeks earlier.

“Soo … I’m recused, but when people start accusing us of overcharging cases … 16 counts on a Class 4 becomes exhibit A,” Foxx texted the night the indictment was announced.

“Yes I can see here that can be seen as excessive,” Magats replied.

“(A pedophile) with 4 victims 10 counts. Washed up celeb who lied to cops, 16. On a case eligible for deferred prosecution I think it’s indicative of something we should be looking at generally,” Foxx continued.

“Just because we can charge something doesn’t mean we should.”