NBC 5 has learned of a move by Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot to reverse decades of tradition by revamping the mayor’s Chicago Police bodyguard unit, adding representatives from federal agencies and other law enforcement agencies.
At issue, the mayor-elect’s intention to build a new protective detail, reportedly headed by former U.S. Marshal Jim Smith. The unit would include former federal marshals and members of other departments outside Chicago.
“I am not in favor of taking away our jobs and replacing them with someone,” FOP President Kevin Graham told NBC 5. “For as long as we have had a bodyguard detail for the mayor, Chicago police officers have been committed to making sure the mayor and those around him or her are safe.”
A police source told NBC 5 that the mayor-elect has been told by present and former high-ranking department members that the proposal creates a myriad of issues, not the least of which are the fact that outside officers might not be fully indemnified by the city of Chicago, and that such a unit raises question about state certification.
A spokesman for Lightfoot confirmed changes are being examined, but denied reports that Chicago Police would be squeezed out.
“This will not be a civilian detail,” the spokesman said. “The mayor will be adding several experienced for U.S. Marshals and other law enforcement officials, to the Chicago Police officers who make up her security detail. The mayor looks forward to working with all of them.”
Lightfoot is to take office on Monday, and reportedly has received negative input on the issue from a number of present and former Chicago police officials.
Aside from the legal and operational questions, critics point to the optics. Lightfoot, a respected former federal prosecutor, was also the President of the Chicago Police Board and author of a scathing 2016 report on police accountability.
That 2016 report called for a “painful but necessary reckoning”, and referenced the “callous and disrespectful way” in which members of the community had been treated by some CPD officers.
While pointing to the difficult and dangerous job performed day in and day out by Chicago Police, what the report called “an increasingly daunting challenge in crime fighting”, it went on to call for “a more professional, engaged, and respectful police force.”
“The Task Force heard over and over again from a range of voices, particularly from African-Americans, that some CPD officers are racist, have no respect for the lives and experiences of people of color, and approach every encounter with people of color as if the person, regardless of age, gender, or circumstance, is a criminal,” the report stated. “Regardless of the demographic, people of color loudly expressed their outrage about how they are treated by the police.”