Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Thursday it’s a “big deal” to strip an officer of police powers and the Civilian Office of Police Accountability needs to provide “good justification” for recommending it for the officer who shot and killed Anthony Alvarez.
COPA announced Wednesday it had taken the extraordinary step of recommending that the officer who shot Alvarez in Portage Park early on March 31 be placed on paid desk duty after serving the 30-day leave that is standard after all police shootings.
That blindsided Chicago Police Supt. David Brown, who told reporters that same day that he had not been notified of COPA’s recommendation.
On Thursday, Lightfoot made no effort to conceal her surprise or displeasure with COPA’s hide-the-ball strategy.
“I respect the independence of COPA. [But] they’ve got to do a better job of communicating with the superintendent. It shouldn’t be that the press knows about something before the superintendent of police knows about something,” she said.
“That’s a communication issue that COPA absolutely has to solve.”
A former Police Board president, Lightfoot says she can assume only that COPA’s rare recommendation about the officer who shot Alvarez is “premised upon COPA’s investigation” into the shooting and the “statement that they took, I believe, from the officers involved” in the foot chase that culminated in Alvarez’s death.
“We’ll see where this plays out. But that’s really a conversation that has to be had between the superintendent and COPA about what their basis is for recommending that that officer in particular be stripped of his police powers,” she said.
“It’s a big deal to strip somebody of their police powers. And there’s got to be a good justification for doing it. Presumably, COPA believes that there is. But, that conversation really needs to take place between them.”
Alvarez was shot and killed by an officer in the 5200 block of West Eddy Street. Police say Alvarez pulled out a gun, “which led to a confrontation with police,” and an officer shot him.
In videos COPA released Wednesday, a Chicago police officer can be heard yelling “Drop the gun! Drop the gun!” while chasing Alvarez, before firing five shots from close range.
After release of the Adam Toledo shooting video, Lightfoot directed Brown to draft a new policy reining in foot chases, which she has said are among the most deadly and dangerous behaviors police officers engage in.
There’s even greater urgency after release of the Alvarez shooting video.
Lightfoot said Thursday she hopes a draft of the new foot chase policy will be ready for public comment in the next few weeks — after input from “line officers who are gonna have to live with whatever that policy is.”
“Foot pursuits are a very dangerous exercise. It’s something that happens, probably seven to 10 times every single day across the city. So it’s way past time that we get this right. And I’m committed to making sure we do that, but do it in a way that reflects comments from the public as well as from the officers who are … putting themselves at risk every time they engage in a foot pursuit,” she said.
The mayor was asked whether she has given any thought to suspending foot chases entirely until a new policy is in place.
Lightfoot said she considered it briefly, but dismissed the idea out of hand.
“It’s always easy to say, `Let’s just stop.’ But, I also don’t want to signal to individuals — particularly in communities that are under siege by violence — that you can avoid any accountability by running faster than the police,” Lightfoot said.
“I think that would send a terrible message.”