Lightfoot defends massive security detail nearly 100 officers strong

AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

Chicago’s violent crime rate is already at 25-year highs and things are only getting worse in the Windy City, but Mayor Lori Lightfoot can sleep well at night knowing she’s protected by dozens of Chicago police officers assigned for her personal safety. The Chicago Sun-Times reports that not only is Lightfoot guarded by a squad of about twenty officers assigned as her personal detail, more than 70 other members of the Chicago Police Department have been tasked with watching over her home, office, and family.

Unit 544, also known as the Government Security Detail, was created in 2020, according to the paper, with a mission of providing “physical security for City Hall, the mayor’s residence and the mayor’s detail command post.” As the Sun-Times reminds us, at the time the unit was created, Lightfoot had come under criticism from some city residents who complained that too many officers were being pulled from their neighborhood patrols to stand guard outside of the mayor’s home.

In an interview with the Sun-Times, Lightfoot denied that the unit’s creation was a response to those complaints, instead pointing the finger at former president Donald Trump for making her unsafe.

“When the president of the United States uses the world’s largest megaphone and platform to target you personally, terrible things happen. And he not only blew a dog whistle, he pointed really evil and dangerous people right at my doorstep,” Lightfoot said.

As evidence, Lightfoot pointed to a February incident where a man was arrested on stalking and gun charges after allegedly firing several rounds in an alley near Lightfoot’s home. Police, however, say Joseph Igataura was angry over parking tickets and wasn’t motivated by any of the former president’s previous comments.

I don’t think anyone (okay, maybe a few people) would begrudge the mayor of a big city like Chicago having a small personal detail assigned to protect her. But between her official security detail and the Government Security Detail, we’re now talking about close to 100 officers, and that has some police union officials crying foul.

Asked if having 71 officers in Unit 544 along with the officers in the mayor’s bodyguard detail is too many, a former top City Hall aide familiar with the creation of the unit shrugged.

“I don’t know what the right number is,” said the ex-official, who asked not to be named. “They should be doing data-informed deployment. What does the data say?”

But John Catanzara, president of Chicago’s Fraternal Order of Police and a regular Lightfoot critic, said she’s safeguarding herself at the cost of public safety.

“While murders are soaring, while districts are barebones for manpower, all that matters is protecting her castle,” he said.

Look, if I were mayor of Chicago I’d want as much security as I could get away with too. The difference is that I wouldn’t try to make it as hard as possible for law-abiding citizens who don’t get a team of city-funded bodyguards to protect themselves as well, whereas Lightfoot is constantly looking to add more gun control laws on the books and to increase the number of prosecutions for possessory crimes like having a gun without a FOID card or a concealed carry license (government-mandated permission slips that the government has been slow to issue in the state over the past couple of years, by the way).

The vast majority of Chicagoans don’t get a single officer assigned for their personal safety, much less a Praetorian Guard nearly 100 officers strong. And yet, over the past two years, as some have tried to protect themselves with a legally-purchased and lawfully-carried firearm, they’ve been stymied by the state police and the agency’s lengthy delays in issuing FOID and concealed carry licenses; delays that Lightfoot certainly never saw fit to complain about.

And why would she? She’s been protected the entire time, after all, and by a unit that’s larger than most small-town police departments. Again, I don’t begrudge the mayor her security detail (even though it could easily be pared down). I just think it’s blatantly hypocritical of Lightfoot to surround herself with dozens of armed men and women ready to act in her defense, while she makes it so legally difficult and dangerous for Chicagoans to simply protect themselves and their loved ones by embracing their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.