Emanuel To Reappoint Vocal Critic As Head Of Police Board
Updated at 3:40 p.m.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has reappointed Lori Lightfoot to another two-year term as president of the Police Board, a civilian oversight panel that decides whether to discipline officers in misconduct cases.
Emanuel announced the decision Thursday morning — three days after Lightfoot’s first term officially ended, and a day after the two sat down for a private meeting about the decision.
The reappointment comes despite Lightfoot’s increasingly vocal criticism of Emanuel’s efforts to reform the Chicago Police Department and hold officers more accountable, issues that have dominated City Hall following the release of police video showing a white officer shooting a black teenager 16 times.
When asked if the decision to reappoint her means Emanuel is open to having independent voices in the police reform discussion, Lightfood said, “You gotta ask the mayor that question. I never try to speak for anybody else, and I certainly don’t try to speak for the mayor. I’m happy for the reappointment, and for me, I don’t look in the rearview mirror — I look forward.”
Emanuel first appointed Lightfoot to the Police Board in 2015, and he tapped her to head his Police Accountability Task Force following the infamous police shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.
Police reform advocates have applauded Lightfoot as a strong, independent leader who turned the police board from a rubber-stamp board to a major player in holding officers accountable.
Lightfoot has also not been afraid to speak out against Emanuel.
She blasted Emanuel last month for entering into a “memorandum of agreement” with the U.S. Department of Justice rather than pursuing federal court oversight of the police department.
She said the proposal the Emanuel administration sent to the Justice Department lacked transparency and failed to institute the sort of systematic reforms needed to truly change the police department.
“There’s a lot of pages but there’s not a lot of specific content, perspectively, on what the police department needs to do,” Lightfoot said on WBEZ’s Morning Shift last month.“I don’t know why that level of detail isn’t in there. I heard it was a timing issue, but my response to that is, well, if you’re not ready, wait. This is too important not to get right.”
Lightfoot also said speaking out is part of her job.
“Look, I think it’s important for the mayor and for his team to hear honest feedback from folks who may have a different perspective than they do,” she said. “Presumably, that’s why they reached out to me in the first instance.”
Emanuel did not mention Lightfoot’s public criticism when asked by reporters on Thursday about his private meeting with her this week. He said they discussed, among other things, the police board’s failure to get its 2015 annual report out on time.
Earlier this week, while Emanuel was mulling his decision, the city’s largest police union, the Fraternal Order of Police, slammed Lightfoot for being unfair to cops. The police board heard eight discharge cases in 2016. All eight officers were found guilty and seven of them were fired.
Fraternal Order of Police President Kevin Graham said he blamed Lightfoot.
“The public deserves an impartial board, and our members deserve a fair hearing,”Graham said.
But University of Chicago Law Professor Craig Futterman said Lightfoot has done a “great job in her tenure” as police board president.
“Her reappointment should be uncontroversial," Futterman wrote in an email.
Patrick Smith is a WBEZ producer and reporter. Follow him on Twitter at @pksmid.