DEFUND WHAT? As CPD faces massive cuts, mayor Lori Lightfoot has an army of 70 officers for protection
Once a former advocate for defunding the police, Lightfoot has surrounded herself with police, but it appears not all cops are equally important
In 2020, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot proposed slashing the Chicago Police Department's budget by a massive $80 million, a figure that was eventually scaled back to $59 million. But while that was happening, a new report claims the Mayor surrounded herself with a secret security detail, made up of a small army of police officers. The shocking contrast goes to show just how hypocritical Lightfoot's policies can be.
The budget cuts to Chicago PD have had a telling effect, with the city facing a massive surge in crime. Things got so bad, that in December 2021, a police dispatcher publicly called the Mayor a "disgrace". Lightfoot didn't help matters when she was caught calling a police union official a "clown", part of her longstanding issues with the city's cops. In December 2021, Lightfoot called on Attorney General Merrick Garland to send Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms agents to the city to combat its gun violence issue.
Notably, Lightfoot was once a strong advocate for the Defund the Police movement, which has since fizzled out amidst a surge in crime and lack of support from The White House. According to a new report by the Chicago Sun-Times, it appears that Lightfoot is more concerned with her personal security than the city's crime rate, which led her to hire a detail while slashing the PD's budget.
Lightfoot's secret security detail
On July 7, 2020, rank-and-file officers received a memo from the Chicago PD saying they could apply to Unit 544, or the Government Security Detail. The memo said, "The unit’s mission will be to provide physical security for City Hall, the mayor’s residence, and the mayor’s detail command post." It also added the unit would "respond to all threats related to the mayor’s physical properties."
Since then, Unit 544 has grown from a small number of officers to 65, as of March 2022. This is in addition to the 20 officers Lightfoot has as part of her bodyguard detail. The Mayor defended the creation of Unit 544, saying City Hall had different chains of command, so "if there was some kind of emergency at City Hall, the right hand wouldn’t necessarily know what the left hand was doing."
The question though, is whether Lightfoot needs so many cops? According to John Catanzara, the president of Chicago’s Fraternal Order of Police, she doesn't. "While murders are soaring, while districts are barebones for manpower, all that matters is protecting her castle," he bluntly said to the Sun-Times. In 2021, 660 cops retired, almost double the number in 2018. It forced the department to relax hiring standards in 2022, but a lack of manpower is just one of the many issues plaguing the department. With overall funding down, cops are not only stretched thin but also expected to do more with fewer resources.
As a result, overall crime has shot up by 36%, with police units stretched thin and unable to respond. The Mayor has since been trying several approaches to combat crime, but it appears none of it is working. The only positive from the story appears to be that Lightfoot is no longer feuding with the department, and even came out to defend Police Superintendent David Brown. However, crime is still rampant, and it's Chicago's citizens that are paying the price.