A group of Chicago police officers turned their back on Mayor Lori Lightfoot when she visited their wounded colleagues at the hospital Saturday night, reflecting the high emotions around policing in the city after two officers were shot on the South Side.
Lightfoot visited the University of Chicago Medical Center late Saturday after two police officers were shot in West Englewood. One of them, 29-year old Ella French, later died, while the other remains hospitalized.
A source with knowledge of the incident said Lightfoot was scolded while at the hospital by the father of the second officer who got shot. Lightfoot stood there and listened, according to the source.
Afterward, Lightfoot tried to approach a few dozen cops who walked away from her and kept their backs turned, the source said. The mayor then walked away, according to the source.
Lightfoot’s office released a statement Monday addressing the incident at the hospital by saying she was present at the emergency department “to offer support and condolences to the families involved and the hundreds of line officers and exempts who were there, which she did.”
“In a time of tragedy, emotions run high and that is to be expected,” according to the statement. “The mayor spoke to a range of officers that tragic night and sensed the overwhelming sentiment was about concern for their fallen colleagues.”
The mayor’s office also said it’s “time for us to come together as a city.”
“We have a common enemy and it is the conditions that breed the violence and the manifestations of violence, namely illegal guns and gangs,” the statement said. “The mayor is focused on healing the wounds and will reject any and all that try to use this moment to drive further divisions in our city.”
Lightfoot has had a long, complicated relationship with Chicago police. As a former federal prosecutor, she touted her law enforcement background to earn support from police and firefighters during the 2019 mayoral election. But she has also worked for police reforms, heading the police accountability task force created by Mayor Rahm Emanuel following the release of video in the police killing of Laquan McDonald and recommending major changes.
Although Lightfoot’s encounter with police officers at the hospital is noteworthy, it isn’t the first time a big-city mayor has been greeted that way by cops. Several New York City police officers turned their back on Mayor Bill DeBlasio when he delivered a eulogy for NYPD Officer Miosotis Familia who was shot and killed in 2017. Other officers also turned their back on DeBlasio in 2014 following the deaths of NYPD Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu.
Still, others said the incident at U. of C. Medical Center reflects frustrations by Chicago cops that city leaders don’t provide enough support to officers. Southwest Side Ald. Matt O’Shea, 19th, said Chicago police morale “is at an all-time low.”
“We’re significantly down in officers. They are rushing for the exits. They are leaving law enforcement. They’re looking to get hired by suburban municipalities. They feel that leadership in Chicago does not have their back,” said O’Shea, whose ward is home to many police officers.
“I hear this every day as I talk to officers and I talk to their families,” he added. “It’s something I’ve been talking about for years. We are woefully inadequate with our support for our officers, whether that be mental health support, support on the job, or when they’re out on the street, they feel like people don’t have their back.”