Lightfoot tells Chicago cops to increase arrests or get demoted

AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot knows she’s in trouble politically. Chicago’s not going to elect a Republican to run the city next year, but with former education secretary and Chicago school superintendent Arne Duncan hinting at a run against Lightfoot next year, the mayor desperately needs to show some display of leadership ability if she wants to remain politically viable next year.

Lightfoot got a golden opportunity this week when the city’s teachers union voted not to return to in-person learning, giving the mayor an opportunity to bash the union and side with parents. But education isn’t the only concern of Chicago voters these days. Crime is soaring, and while Lightfoot has blamed everyone from Cook County State Attorney Kim Foxx to Indiana gun stores (while rarely blaming the perpetrators themselves) for the increase in the past, this week she was talking tough to Chicago cops.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot reportedly warned Chicago police leaders that they will be demoted or lose their lose jobs if they fail to increase arrest numbers.

During the closed-door meeting, Lightfoot and Chicago Police Supt. David Brown didn’t outline how they intend to tackle the surging violent crime in the city or the department-wide staffing issues amid COVID-19 mandates, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

One source said the “threatening” message essentially meant “make do with what you have to get more arrests” and “clear more murders or you will be demoted.”

The move could lead to an increase of petty arrests, with one source noting that “Black and Brown communities are going to get hit the hardest.”

Chicago’s homicide clearance rate is below 50%, and the clearance rate for non-fatal shootings has been closer to 5% over the past couple of years, which is abysmally low. Lightfoot and Brown are promising to add 100 more homicide detectives to the ranks of the Chicago PD, but even if they can find 100 seasoned veterans willing to sign on to a department viewed as the enemy by many city officials, it’s going to take more than just manpower to significantly improve the number of cases that are cleared. Witness protection services need better funding, for one thing, but if you really want eyewitnesses to come forward they also need to have confidence that the criminal justice system will deliver real consequences and not swiftly return violent offenders to the streets. That’s not the responsibility of the Chicago PD, but of the Cook County prosecutor and the judges in the county courtrooms.

Police can’t prosecute, but they can make arrests, and if Lightfoot is looking for an easy way to show she’s getting “tough on crime” then it makes sense (at least from a public relations perspective) to tout a growing number of offenders hauled off in handcuffs. But simply making more arrests won’t automatically lead to less crime. Arresting individuals for simply possessing a firearm without a FOID card or concealed carry license, for example, isn’t going to have the same impact as solving a homicide or a carjacking.

And not to beat a dead horse, but arrests don’t mean squat if they don’t lead to prosecutions, and Kim Foxx has been a disaster for Chicago in that regard. As the suburban Daily Herald newspaper opined in late December:

The Smollett embarrassment is only the highest profile example of cavalier judgment that has cost Foxx her credibility and worse, may be costing her constituents their safety.

Just a week ago, her office agreed to a plea deal that allowed the murderer of 15-year-old Elias Valdez of Glenview to escape even a single day in jail.

Last month, the state’s attorney’s office finally charged a suspect in the September stabbing death in Schaumburg of 18-year-old Manuel Porties Jr. of Elgin. That murder charge was filed only after Porties’ family and the Schaumburg police strongly protested the office’s initial decision against bringing a case.

“It’s a shame we had to fight for justice,” the victim’s father, Manuel Portes Sr. said. “It’s a shame it had to take 1½ months.”

I’m not convinced that Lightfoot’s tough talk is going to lead to less crime, though it probably will result in more arrests for low-level offenses. Chicago’s failures are myriad and multi-faceted, and the simple truth is that there is no quick and easy fix for decades of bad decisions and disastrous policies. But while city leaders flail about and point fingers at each other, my advice to Chicagoans is to run the gauntlet of gun control laws in the state and start exercising your Second Amendment right to armed self-defense, because your elected officials aren’t going to keep you safe, no matter what they pledge from behind a podium.