When Chicago Police officer Ella French was murdered after a traffic stop on another bloody weekend in the city of anarchy, Mayor Lori Lightfoot made her “big speech.”
Mayors always make “the big speech” when a police officer is killed in the line of duty. And the one Lightfoot delivered on Sunday was typical of others I’ve seen. It was somber and sought to bridge the divide between police critics and supporters and protect her own flanks. And it was deeply political, because she used it to cover her own flanks.
But Lightfoot forgot an important part. She forgot to say that for years now, she’s been the one throwing cops under the bus to boost her politics.
And police, and their families I spoke with for this column, sum her up in one word:
“I’m so angry at the mayor,” said the wife of a veteran Chicago Police officer who works on the South Side. “Ella French was young, inexperienced, she shouldn’t have been out there, but manpower is so low that these kids get sent to the roughest places, and Lightfoot has spent years throwing cops under the bus.
“The mayor made her damn speech, and she said something like, ‘they’re human too.’ Police are human, too? God! Really? Thank you Lori. I don’t really think she thinks they’re human. They’re a mechanism to further her agenda.”
Another wife of a veteran officer who works on the North Side said she didn’t handle the mayor’s speech or what happened to French very well.
“I don’t think I’m handling this well at all,” she said. “I’m worried all the time. He’s good at compartmentalizing. When he’s home, he’s home. ‘Let’s go into the garden,’ he’ll say, or ‘Let’s walk the dog.’ When I cry, I do it after he’s gone.”
So politicians make speeches. But you know who isn’t supposed to make a speech? Cops themselves, and their families. They feel under siege, by politicians and media and they suffer in silence.
I’ve confirmed that cops turned their backs on the mayor when she tried speaking to them at the hospital. The father of French’s partner, the critically wounded officer, was also angry at Lightfoot and told her what he thought of her in no uncertain terms at the hospital.
His son has lost an eye and is clinging to life with a bullet in his head. His father, a retired cop himself, spoke his mind. He was angry. They’re all angry. They have the right. It’s not the first time a police family member had their say to a mayor. It isn’t the first time that cops have turned their backs on a mayor.
Murder charges were filed against the alleged shooters on Monday. And now, more questions are being asked.
Questions as to whether all the young, inexperienced officers in supremely violent neighborhoods at night have been intimidated by politics and the fear that their bosses, and the politicians, won’t back them up. They’ve been trained in a climate of fear, and so, do they hesitate rather than put vigorous hands on suspects when necessary?
They don’t want to be on a video. They don’t want to be shamed. They don’t want to lose their careers. Some hesitate. And that can be deadly.
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