Lori Lightfoot

‘We Should All Be Disgusted': Lightfoot Promises Reform After Video Surfaces of Lounging Chicago Cops

Videotape shows more than a dozen officers "lounging" in U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush's campaign office, one even making popcorn, as protests and looting erupted in Chicago earlier this month, he revealed Thursday.

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Mayor Lori Lightfoot detailed several police reform measures Thursday, including legislation to license and certify police officers, and sent a stern message about injustice after video surfaced of Chicago police officers seen sitting around a congressman's campaign office while looters burned businesses nearby.

Read Lightfoot's remarks below, delivered after Rep. Bobby Rush explained what he saw in the video from his office.

Thank you, Congressman, for your incredibly powerful words, and let me lead by apologizing to you again. On behalf of our city, you and your office were treated with such profound disrespect. That's a personal embarrassment to me. And I'm sorry that you and your staff even had to deal with this incredible indignity.

I just spoke a moment ago about injustice. It manifests itself in many obvious, but also subtle and insidious ways. Of course, when a Black man dies in the street, with a white police officer’s knee on his neck, it is murder. But it's also profoundly unjust. And we can have no tolerance for that ever. And people are rightly outraged

But equally unacceptable is when there is looting and brazen criminal conduct, also unjust. And it really is the height of injustice when police are deployed, given a mission and they fail to act. That too isn't justice.

Public safety cannot be a commodity that is only available to the wealthy and connected. Public safety must be a reality everywhere, everywhere in every neighborhood of our city, period. When you swear an oath to serve and protect, you are a Chicago police officer, not a police officer for only certain neighborhoods and only at certain times. That is not how it is or will ever be in our city.

Now, you've all seen me angry, unfortunately a lot lately. I was and I still am angry at the murder of George Floyd, of Breonna Taylor, of Ahmaud Arbery, of way too many others. And I was angry when looters hijacked righteous protesters and targeted black communities. I was angry, concerned when Black and LatinX [tensions] threatened to tear apart our city just at a time when we needed to stand united.

And I'm angry today. As a Black woman, we are often told don't show your rage. Don't let them paint you as another angry Black woman. Don't scold, don't curse. Keep it together, be respectable and presentable.

My life in this country has forced me to be angry and determined to be a fighter. All my life I have fought with every fiber of my being to survive in a world that was built to throw flaming roadblocks in our way as Black people. And I am working every day to instill that fight and that determination in my Black daughter and show her that even, yes, we have a responsibility to live our full and authentic lives, even in the face of these deeply ingrained and innately violent systems of racism.

And if we're angry, let’s not shrink from that. But let's use our anger to get results. And what I'm also feeling in this moment is incredible resolve. I do have a range of emotions as I stand here, but mostly, I'm done. We cannot go on like this anymore.

Look, we don't paint all police officers with a broad brush. That would be wrong.

And I spent a lot of time, and a lot of time being criticized for it, for praising our officers for their hard work for the restraint for de-escalation in the vast majority of cases over the recent weeks of unrest and protest. Those men and women are the heroes, and they've served the city honorably, and they represent the badge proudly.

But the officers in this incident and others we've seen in the past weeks ... have demonstrated a total disregard for their colleagues, for the badge and for those that were sworn to serve and protect, and these officers will be held accountable. … This will be investigated thoroughly and these officers and the supervisors will be identified, and they will be held to account.

And I can tell you one thing for certain, not one of these officers will be allowed to hide behind the badge and go on and act like nothing ever happened. Not anymore. Not in my city, not in your city.

I was elected on a pledge to ensure transparency and accountability in all things. And particularly with the Chicago Police Department. We know we have a difficult and painful history in our city around delaying the release of videos depicting police misconduct.

That is in part why we're showing you these images here today, less than 24 hours after I first laid eyes on them. What they show, regrettably, is that these individuals were lounging in a congressman's office having a little hangout for themselves, while small businesses on the South Side were looted and burned, while their colleagues were getting bottles thrown at their heads, and doing everything they could to protect these communities.

And perhaps what is most harmful about this is that for so many people on the South and the West Side, the actions of these officers, the deplorable lack of responsibility to do their job at a time when the city and their fellow officers needed them most. Their conduct will confirm the perception that too many people on the South and the West Side were left to fend for themselves, that police don't care if Black and brown communities were looted, and burned.

And while thousands of officers served honorably on that very difficult weekend and everyday sense, these individuals did indeed abandon their responsibilities and their obligation and their oath to serve and protect.

We should all be disgusted. We should all feel hurt and betrayed in this moment of all moments. But let's also not lose sight of the opportunity that this presents. This is a moment to be bold, and if we don't harness this moment to rethink what serving and protecting means, we will never do it.

This moment presents us with an opportunity, not to nibble around the edges, but to be bold.

We're already working every day to implement the requirements of the consent decree. But that's not enough. But now, in this moment, it's time for us to fully implement the recommendations of the Police Accountability Task Force more than four years ago that have languished. Now is the moment to be honest about the ways in which the Fraternal Order of Police contract has been holding back the necessary change and reform that we must bring to make this police department fully accountable to the residents of this city. And now is the time to act on licensing for police officers once and for all.

I'm here to tell you today that I've directed my legal team to do the research and to draft the legislation. I am ready. I am ready to work with the governor and our other great partners in Springfield to forge a change in state law to require licensing and certification of police officers. And I'm grateful for the attendance of Brad Cole, the leader of the Illinois Municipal League, and we will work together to make sure that we get this legislation passed.

It's time really, actually it's way past time, for this change in our state. And licensing is just one of several new measures that we must Institute to make individual officers and departments far more accountable to the people.

We have a long road and a hard road ahead. And none of these things is going to happen overnight. But I am grateful to have such a principle, focused partner in Supt. Brown.

He gets it. He's not afraid, and neither am I. And together, we want to be clear. You're not serving or protecting anybody when you're shouting a derogatory slur or gesture at them. You're not serving or protecting when you pull people out of their cars by their hair and beat the daylights out of them in the street. You're not serving or protecting when you make movie popcorn and put up your feet and lounge while your fellow officers down the street getting a hell beaten out of them and doing what they sworn on earth to do.

So today, yes, we are angry. But we're also resolved. And we are committed. And we may not be perfect in all of our efforts from this moment forward. But we were seizing on this moment to finally make the changes that many thought were too politically sensitive or infeasible or too big or too bold.

The time for excuses is over. Our people are impatient, and rightfully so.

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