Chicago, IL – At least 17 Chicago police officers and their command staff have been suspended for lounging in a congressional campaign office during riots in the city in June.
Police sources told WBBM that the officers and their supervisors will all face multi-week suspensions for their actions inside U.S. Representative Bobby Rush’s (D-Illinois).
Chicago Police Spokesman Tom Ahern said that Internal Affairs had completed its investigation into the security videos of officers napping, lounging, and popping popcorn in the campaign office.
“The members have been notified of the results of the investigation,” Ahern said, but he didn’t provide specifics on the number of officers or the length of their suspension, according to WBBM.
“Each member may elect to challenge the decisions based on their collective bargaining agreements, which initiates the grievance process. We are unable to release further information regarding the results of the investigation at this time due to the ongoing grievance process,” Ahern said in an email.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has refused to comment on the punishments that have been meted out, WBBM reported.
The incident in question made headlines the first week of June after Lightfoot released screenshots from the footage captured by surveillance cameras inside Rush’s campaign offices in the 5400-block of S. Wentworth Avenue, WFLD reported.
The mayor demanded an investigation and the harshest possible consequences for the others she thought were shirking their duty to the city during the riots.
The pictures grabbed from the security video showed Chicago police officers lounging around inside the campaign office, several with heads down on desks and at least one reclined onto a couch as if sleeping.
“They even had the unmitigated gall to make coffee for themselves and to pop popcorn, my popcorn, in my microwave while looters were tearing apart businesses. Within their sight and within their reach,” Rush ranted to reporters at the mayor’s press conference at the time.
The congressman has claimed that the officers were not asked to sit inside his campaign office to keep it safe but said he knew officers had responded to his office after it was broken into, WFLD reported.
The Chicago police union, however, has disputed the congressman’s account of the events.
“He was an absolute liar, he’s a piece of garbage, he hates the police from his Black Panthers days, and he especially hates white police. He’s a racist,” Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara told WFLD.
Catanzara said the officers responded to a call from one of the congressman’s staffers about the office being burglarized, WFLD reported.
Once the looters were cleared out of the area, the officers were supposed to remain in the area, so they took shelter in the office, Catanzara said.
“If there’s nobody there, what are they supposed to do?” Catanzara asked. “Stand in a skirmish line in the middle of the night for five hours with nobody there? Makes no sense.”
“If their job was to protect the premise from being further looted, I mean yeah, it looks bad, but again, it’s not the end of the world like they’re trying to make it and turn it into some kind of racial event,” the union boss told WFLD.
Lightfoot said investigators would use department records and location data from police vehicles to determine which officers participated in the events captured on video, WFLD reported.
The mayor said that three of the officers featured in the video were wearing white shirts which indicated they were supervisors and ranking officers.
“While thousands of officers served honorably on that very difficult weekend and every day since, these individuals did indeed abandon their responsibilities and their obligation and their oath to serve and protect,” she said. “We should all be disgusted. We should all feel hurt and betrayed in this moment of all moments.”
The pictures are from surveillance video that was filmed on May 31 and in the early hours of June 1, WFLD reported.
Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown called the officers’ actions indefensible at the time.
“Sleep during a riot?” Superintendent Brown asked. “What do you do on a regular shift when there’s no riots?”
Chicago Police First Deputy Superintendent Anthony Riccio said that while the officers were hanging out in Rush’s office, rioters outside were attacking police officers, setting police vehicles on fire, and looting businesses, WFLD reported.
“Thirteen officers making popcorn, taking a nap and relaxing as I was standing shoulder to shoulder with hundreds of other officers on State Street while we got pelted with rocks,” the senior official said. “That’s occurring at the same time these guys are making popcorn and having a pot of coffee.”
He said more than 100 Chicago police officers were injured during the riots, WFLD reported.
The mayor vowed to get to the bottom of the incident.
“Not one of these officers will be allowed to hide behind the badge and go on and act like nothing ever happened,” Lightfoot told reporters. “I believe we should take the strongest possible action that we can take, particularly with the supervisors.”
She said the video proved police believed they could do anything they wanted to do, WFLD reported.
“These officers clearly felt like they were untouchable,” the mayor said. “And why not when the officers, the white shirts [supervisors wear white shirts to distinguish them from other officers] are in the room with them?”
Lightfoot said that the question of whether to charge the officers for anything would be left up to the Cook County State’s Attorney and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, WFLD reported.
The Police Tribune reached out to the FOP for comment but had not received a response at publication time.