Lightfoot Announces Police Licensing Legislation In Development After Officers Were Caught Drinking Coffee and Sleeping In Congressman’s Looted Office

Zack Miller | The PhoenixA Chicago police officer with no badge or name tag stands with other officers during a May 30 protest for police reform.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced June 11 she will work with Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker and a legal team to draft legislation that would require police officers to be licensed for their jobs, similar to how hairdressers and doctors are.

The legislation’s announcement came during a press conference where Lightfoot joined Congressman Bobby Rush to speak about his campaign office at 65th Street and South Wentworth Avenue being used by several law enforcement officers as a place to relax after it was looted June 1.

In the nights following peaceful protests over the death of Goerge Floyd, a man who died in the custody of the Minneapolis Police Department, looting and rioting occurred. Rush’s office was just one of several buildings affected throughout the city.

Video cameras in Rush’s office captured several on-duty police officers — including three supervisors — lounging in the office which had been broken into shortly before. Some officers slept while others made popcorn and coffee while looting continued to occur on the streets outside.

“They absolutely did not care,” the congressman and co-founder of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panthers said during the press conference. “They took such a lackadaisical attitude … occupying my space, while looting was happening all around them.”

Lightfoot said the incident was a “personal embarrassment” and apologized to Rush and his staff on behalf of the city.

“The officers in this incident and others in the past week have demonstrated a total disregard for their colleagues, the badge and those they serve,” Lightfoot said. “Not one of these officers will be allowed to hide behind the badge and go on and pretend like nothing ever happened.”

According to Lightfoot, the officers involved have yet to be identified.

The mayor announced shortly after that she was working with Governor Pritzker and a legal team to draft legislation that would require police to be licensed in Illinois.

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul explained in a June 5 interview with WBEZ that a licensing system would allow an officer to have their license pulled — effectively barring them from the profession — as is the case with other licensed professions, such as hairdressers and doctors.

“If they have an egregious act of official misconduct or a pattern of such, they can have their license taken away such that they cannot participate in that profession anymore and that should be the same thing for a law enforcement officer who is capable of using deadly force in carrying out his or her duties,” Raoul said during the interview.

Raoul did not immediately respond to request for comment.

“It is way past time for this change in our state,” Lightfoot said at the press conference.

Details on the legislation have yet to be released, though the movement for licensing officers is gaining traction across the country, notably in Massachusetts where State Representative Russell Holmes has called for police licensing since 2016.

The announcement is the most recent piece of legislation to come out of the George Floyd protests. Lightfoot promised police reform within 90 days June 2 and a resolution to create the Chicago Descendants of Enslaved Africans Reparations Commission was passed by the Committee on Health and Human Relations unanimously June 5.

Some protesters, including Chicago’s branch of black lives matter, have called for the city to “defund the police” in order to bolster the budgets of schools, mental health centers and housing programs.

In 2013, Chicago Public Schools closed 50 schools when the city faced a billion dollar budget deficit — negatively impacting students. The year before, several mental health facilities in the city were also closed.

The city provided $1.8 billion for the Chicago Police Department in 2020, about 40 percent of the city’s budget.

Lisa Bender — City Council President of Minneapolis, the city where George Floyd was killed — announced the city’s intent to disband their police department and move towards a community-based model of policing. This new version of the city’s law enforcement would include redirecting funds previously allocated to the police back into communities.

When questioned about law enforcement budgets at the press conference, Lightfoot said calls for defunding were cries for help from communities that had been without resources — an issue her administration aimed to address previously with the Invest South/West program, which provides $250 million a year for “under-invested” neighborhoods.

The 2020 budget also placed a $9.3 million investment into Chicago’s Framework for Mental Health Equity, part of which includes the creation of nonprofit health centers. The plan does not include reopening the facilities closed in 2012.

“When I hear that what I hear is people rightfully offended by the fact that we have not invested enough in communities,” Lightfoot said during the June 11 press conference. “We have to bring resources and investments to neighborhoods and communities that have been without resources for decades.”

Lightfoot’s office did not immediately respond to request for comment.

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