Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is slamming WBEZ for a story this week that details anti-violence plans announced Monday by Police Supt. David Brown. The plans included arresting teens working drug corners. Brown lamented that many of those impoverished teens are manipulated into working those corners by older criminals, but he said police are “left with clearing the corner because the corner is where the violence is centered.”
Brown said he doesn’t want to arrest those young people, and he decried mass incarceration. But, when asked for his plans to prevent violence on the holiday weekend, his answer focused partly on the days leading up to it: “Our endgame is arrests for the precursors to violence. So, every day we’re going to be clearing the corners. Every day we’re going to be clearing these drug corners to protect these young people from violence. But, when we clear the corner, we’re pleading with the court systems, keep them in jail through the weekend.”
Lightfoot on multiple occasions this week said Brown never discussed jailing young people to prevent Fourth of July violence.
“That is not what he said,” Lightfoot said Thursday afternoon, insisting that Brown’s words were taken out of context. Earlier in the week, Lightfoot said the planned targets of the pre-holiday arrests were adults, not children.
Below is a full transcript of Brown’s Monday press conference in which he grapples with the city’s gun violence. It’s long, so we’ve applied bold to sections in which Brown discusses the age of the planned arrestees and urges courts to hold them through the weekend.
POLICE SUPERINTENDENT DAVID BROWN: ’Morning. Are we ready? As a police officer here or anywhere else in the country, one of the hardest things we’ll ever encounter is responding to a fatal crime scene that involves children, especially babies. Among the 14 shooting victims killed by gun violence this weekend, two were children. One was just a few months shy of turning 2 years old. On Saturday afternoon, a mother and her 20-month-old son were shot in the 6000 block of South Halsted Street in Englewood. The mother survived, the baby did not. Later that evening, an 8-year-old girl was injured when a stray bullet came through the window of her Englewood home and grazed here on the head. Also on Saturday evening, a 10-year-old girl was inside an apartment building in Logan Square when a bullet struck her in the head. She was later pronounced dead at Stroger Hospital.
As a law-enforcement professional, I can stand here and tell you that our officers over the weekend made 22 gun arrests throughout the city — that’s just over the weekend — and took 66 guns out of the neighborhoods. That’s 22 gun arrests and recovered 66 guns out of neighborhoods just over the weekend. And just in the last six months, we see 4,629 illegal guns in the city. This builds off the efforts in recent years as Chicago PD has recovered 10,897 guns in 2019 and 9,659 guns in 2018. Over 10,000 guns recovered in 2019. Over 9,000 guns in 2018. But that’s not what I’m here to talk about. As a dad, standing alongside other parents up here on this podium, I struggled to make sense of the reckless gun violence that continues to take the lives of our young people throughout the city.
What I want to talk about are the guns we weren’t able to get to on time – the guns and the cowards, these evil bastards behind those guns, that caused the senseless loss of life over the past weekend. And our officers are not immune from gun violence either. So far in 2020, 16 Chicago police officers have been fired upon. Sixteen. Four officers so far this year have been struck by gunfire. Our officers are not immune to this. Like Chief Waller said on this yesterday: When is it going to stop? When we have young, innocent lives lost, we all need to be outraged, all of us, by this violence. This is not just a problem for Englewood or Humboldt Park or any other neighborhood plagued by gun violence. We cannot compartmentalize the violence that is tearing families and communities apart. We are all part of this city, we all see its beauty, and we can no longer turn a blind eye to the violence here. I am pleading. Please help us bring these murderers to justice.
We are tapping every resource at our disposal to ensure these killers never have a chance to get their hands on another gun and take another life. But make no mistake. As I said last week, and as I continue to repeat, we cannot do this alone. We need the help of the entire criminal justice system, our city partners and, most importantly, our community members, to step up and not only help us identify these perpetrators of violence, but to keep them off our streets until they get their day in court and to keep these violent offenders locked up and off our streets. The street corner, open-air drug market is the pipeline to shootings and murders in Chicago.
Electronic monitoring and low bond amounts given to offenders endangers our residents and flies in the face of the hard work our police officers put in on a daily basis to take them off the streets. This will make our community safer. I will continue to bring attention to the sheer number of repeat offenders who are given little to no jail time and low bonds and are placed on electronic monitoring that are not monitored by anyone, and go on to commit more crimes, like last week. Leroy Battle, who was arrested in August of 2018 for UUW and pled guilty and was sentenced to 18 months probation with special conditions. What did he do? He shot and killed two teenage boys on 79th and Luella on Father’s Day weekend. With the help of our community members, we were able to charge Leroy Battle for these heinous crimes that robbed two teens of their futures. And I want to thank the residents again for their critical partnership.
Open-air street corners are the pipeline to shootings and murders in Chicago. UUW [carrying a weapon illegally] arrests are the precursors to Chicago’s violence. Open-air drug arrests are the precursors to violence in Chicago. When they have no consequence, violence continues, full stop.
We all have a duty and responsibility to step up and put a stop to this. We cannot continue failing our children. We cannot continue robbing them of their future they deserve. I keep hearing this. I’ve been here eight weeks. ‘You’re new here, Superintendent. You’re new here.’ I will never accept, never, this level of violence. Never.
Someone knows something about the murders. If you have any information, reach out to our detectives. You can also provide information anonymously through CPDtip.com. That CPDtip.com. Silence emboldens, empowers those who continue to terrorize our neighborhoods. Now is the time to stand up and say enough is enough. For God’s sake. For the sake of Chicago’s children, come forward with any information you have to help us solve these crimes.
I’d now like to invite up Chief Deenihan to speak on the ongoing investigations into this weekend’s fatal shooting. Brendan?
CHIEF OF DETECTIVES BRENDAN DEENIHAN: Good morning. As the superintendent said, in order to solve these, we’re going to need the help of everybody, including the community, because there’s people out there who know they know who committed these acts. And we’re going to need the information. So I know the superintendent already provided the web site through our News Affairs, we provide the numbers of the detective areas, again, assigned to these investigations. But in order to solve these crimes, the detectives need the information to move forward.
So I’m just going to briefly kind of recap a little bit what the superintendent has already stated. But in Englewood, we had a 1-year-old child killed and the detectives have been out there since the incident occurred. And they’re trying to track the offending vehicle that was involved that shot into this red vehicle. The motive for this particular incident, we believe that they were targeting the father of the child. And a lot of times he would drive this red vehicle and that’s why they shot into this car. The detectives have already released a “Seeking to Identify,” which we will push out through our News Affairs people, on a gray Infiniti vehicle that could possibly be the suspect vehicle. I’m working with the detectives now to get a video together as well to push out through our News Affairs later on today to help identify this vehicle and, more importantly, the people that are inside the vehicle. Obviously, that’s who we need. But the information is out there that the detectives, the detectives needed at this time.
And then, unfortunately, the second incident that occurred not much later was a 10-year-old child over at 3534 W. Dickins. And that child was just sitting inside. When members downstairs, some members of a gang, were just hanging out in that area and then an opposing gang member from almost a block away decides to shoot down the alley. And, once again, these bullets, you know, they’re flying around and shooting over a block away. They don’t hit their intended targets, but instead the bullet goes through the residence and strikes the child in the head. So once again, it’s gang-on-gang violence. It’s outdoors. It’s shooting with a handgun. And the opposing gang, they know they know who did it. And at this point we need the information once again. It was so far away that you could barely see the defendant on how far away he was from the group he was shooting at. For this incident as well, I just talked to the detectives. They do have some information and what they think are the suspect vehicles and they are putting some pictures together. And I’m also getting a video together that we’ll push out through our News Affairs to help identify these possible suspect vehicles. But once again, it’s not the car that did the shooting. It’s just the individuals inside of it. And those are the people that we need identified.
And there’s just no doubt in anybody’s mind that people know who did these shootings. And we need people to, as the superintendent said, we got an anonymous tip line. You can call the detective areas anonymously. And we just need the information so the detectives can start moving forward and taking these dangerous offenders off the streets. So you have a 1-year-old and a 10-year-old killed for no reason at all. And these guys have to get off the street quickly and the detectives need the information. Thank you.
FIRST DEPUTY SUPERINTENDENT ANTHONY RICCIO: Good morning. I’m just really briefly going to talk about something that I think has been overlooked a little bit. In the past 30 days, we’ve seen probably hundreds of officers who’ve been injured in attacks during the protests and attacks at crime scenes and just confrontations on the street that we normally wouldn’t have seen were it not for this heightened tension that we’re seeing throughout the country, throughout the city as well.
Layer on top of that, the recovery of these guns. Every recovery of these guns that you see on the table here is really an armed conflict between a police officer and a criminal who’s armed with some pretty significant firepower. As you can see, there are extended magazines, some automatic rifles. And then layer on top of that, what these officers have seen with the deaths, the murders of young children responding to these scenes, processing detectives that are processing them as well. Our crime lab personnel are evidence technicians, and it’s a pretty significant mental drain on a lot of these officers. So this weekend, I became aware of several postings, actually, on social media from officers who had been dealing with the additional stresses that we’ve seen that that have come over the last 30 days between the protests, the firepower on the street and in particular the incidents involving these young children. So we’re really concerned about that. We’re concerned about always their physical well-being and sometimes the mental well-being gets overlooked.
So this weekend, I directed all of our command personnel to personally reach out to the officers who’ve been involved in these incidents, whether they’ve been physically attacked or whether they’ve played a role in investigating the murders of these small children. And I’ve directed them to personally reach out to them. We have a lot of resources available within the department. Sometimes there is a resistance to utilize those resources. But I’ve ordered our command personnel to reach out to those officers and just check on them and see what they need. Basically, what I said is, Recommend the Employee Assistance Program to these officers. If you think that they really need it, order it. Their physical wellbeing is always forefront in our mind, but their mental wellbeing is sometimes overlooked. And we want to make sure that that’s taken care of as well.
So I’ll turn it back over to the superintendent.
BROWN: I’ll take questions.
REPORTER: [indecipherable] with NBC5. Over the weekend, President Trump sent a letter to the mayor. I’m not sure if your name was mentioned in that letter. Do you have a response to him getting involved in calling out Chicago violence on a national stage?
BROWN: I wish I had time for political banter. I just don’t have the luxury, given that the street-corner open-air drug market is the precursor to violence in this city and that we need to hold violent offenders in jail longer in this city to help protect our children. I just don’t have the luxury to deal with political banter.
REPORTER: Is it the drug market? [indecipherable] the lack of investment in those neighborhoods and all the things that the [indecipherable] have been asking for in recent weeks.
BROWN: On the longer term, you’re exactly right. Investment in neighborhoods that have been blighted, that don’t have much job opportunity, that don’t have much by way of economic development, surely is the backdrop. And I would say, if you dig further, poverty is a larger issue here as it relates to what happens. And I know many of you are TV media. Is there print media here, from the Tribune or Sun-Times? So this is probably, likely, part of an answer much more for your, and I’ll try to speak in a way that you don’t have to keep up what I’m saying.
So here’s what these evil murdering bastards do on the open-air drug markets. They hire young kids that don’t have any significant criminal history to be on these corners selling drugs for them and holding the guns and protecting them until they sell their allotment of drugs and turn it back over to these evil bastards. And they do that because these young people don’t have significant criminal histories. And they’re young so, when we arrest and clear the corner, they’re in jail and out of jail.
No one wants to incarcerate. We’re not talking about mass incarceration at all when we talk about holding violent offenders in jail.
We’re left with clearing the corner because the corner is where the violence is centered around because it’s so profitable. These corners are so profitable. Tens of thousands of dollars are made on these corners every day. And so these masterminds are not on the corner. They got these young people who are hand-to-mouth. They are there because there’s no opportunity in their neighborhood. They are there because of the failures in many other social service, opportunities that is just not available to them. That’s why they’re there: to feed their families. It’s a bad choice.
Without the help of mentors in my neighborhood, I would have been one of these kids I grew up in a poor neighborhood. I would have been one of these kids. But my mom and my family and my school counselors and my coaches all kept me from that decision.
Some of these kids don’t have that mentoring and they make that decision and they’re on these corners. And they’re getting shot at and they’re returning fire. They’re protecting their day’s amount of drugs they have to sell to make whatever little money they make on the corner. And we’re left with, as cops, arresting these young people — 15, 16, 17, 18 years old. And they get in the system, but they don’t have lengthy records, so a UUW arrest is released. It is the method to the madness to have these young people with short criminal histories. They even gave them a nickname. They’re called shorties. They’re short in stature and they’re short in criminal history. And it’s an evil methodology. It’s why they’re on the corner, because it protects the mastermind and it puts us in the position to arrest young people and put them in the pipeline to prison, which we don’t want to do. That’s not our point. So we’re left with this mess as police officers because of poverty, because of no economic development, because of all the shortcomings in social services.
This is the long-version answer that I can’t get on network TV because you only have soundbites. I’m not blaming you. That’s just the TV audience. You only have so much time. You have to pay for commercials. Right? So I want a long version in print to try to describe, we’re not talking about mass incarceration.
We’re talking about a very complex, very nuanced criminal justice system that’s not addressing the violence. These shorties are either the shooters or the victims. They are. And many of them are murder-for-hire to make a little bit more money to feed your family. We’ll pay you a little extra to go over and shoot this other gang. And then the retaliation starts.
This is the complexity of Chicago’s violence. I’ve been here eight weeks. I’ve been here eight weeks. This is the complexity of Chicago violence.
We must, we must keep violent offenders in jail longer. They shouldn’t get out early. If they get three years, do three years. New York did this. L.A. did this. And they’re just as liberal as Chicago. Chicago can do this. We can have under 300 murders. But we have to keep violent offenders in jail longer. And you all have to tell this story. For God’s sake, these young people are forced into these situations, sometimes under duress. Sell my amount of drugs, under duress. Go shoot and kill this other gang member, under duress, or we’re going to kill you. Police officers are stuck in the middle. We can’t stand by and do nothing. We’re going to do our jobs. We’re doing our jobs. Sixteen officers were shot at this year. A squad car was shot up last week. We’re doing our job.
Yes, sir [to a reporter].
REPORTER: Superintendent, after a couple years where we saw the homicide numbers fall pretty drastically — the shooting numbers in Chicago — [indecipherable] beyond the small sample size now, there’s a spike. There’s at least a 25% spike this year. What do you attribute that to?
BROWN: There’s an impact of COVID. I got here right at the midpoint, I think. Late April is when I got here. In March is when COVID really became significant in our country. By mid-April, three Chicago cops died from COVID. And the shockwaves throughout this department and throughout the country were significant as it relates to, What is COVID? Will I take this back home to my family? And so there was a drop off in police interactions with people. Number One.
Number Two, because of COVID, our jail populations were affected because of the congregating in the jails. And so our jails decided to release more people so that they wouldn’t be subject to the close quarters of a crowded jail. So more people were released either on bond, bail, electronic monitoring. So more people were released and less people were being held in the jail. Two.
Three, our court systems are based on having juries. And because COVID, we couldn’t convene a jury. And, so, the criminal justice system shut down, except for Chicago cops. We kept working. We kept arresting people and we kept recovering guns. But everything else came to a stop. And these murdering evil bastards have taken advantage of these situations. That’s why.
Yes [calling on a reporter].
REPORTER: Superintendent, you talked about the failures of electronic monitoring, low bonds and little-to-no jail time. Are you speaking to one department or one director in particular?
BROWN: So I’m not into food fights. I know it sounds like I am.
I just can’t look away when, especially, these kids are being killed. I just can’t look away without advocating for collaboration, a meeting in the middle, instead of the extremes of, We can’t keep any of them in jail.
Let’s keep some of them in jail. Let us make our case. Not mass incarceration, not all of them. I would have been one of those kids. So I’m not advocating for mass incarceration. And I am not pointing the finger. I’ve had great conversations with the state’s attorney’s office. I have had great conversations with the chief judge. And those conversations are continuing. And my hopes are that we make our case, that we make our case for something different in Chicago by way of consequences. That’s what I’m here saying, not pointing a finger, not starting a food fight, I’m trying to make a case. Look at this table [where guns are displayed]. Sixteen cops were shot at this year by these same evil people who killed a newborn baby. I’m trying to make the case that we have to have a different outcome when we make a UUW arrest or an open-air drug market arrest. Because these two types of arrest are the precursors to violence in Chicago. And right now, there is zero consequence to those arrests.
I’m sorry [addressing a reporter in the room], she was before you. She hadn’t asked a question yet and then I’ll come back.
REPORTER: Superintendent, I was just wondering. Looking ahead to the Fourth of July, the weekend, which, everyone knows, can be the most violent in Chicago. You’re talking tapping into different resources. What are you looking to tap that’s different from these past two weekends that could make a difference coming this next weekend in violence?
BROWN: So, one of the things we have been very apprehensive doing is continuing with overtime — because of how we had to use overtime in the last several years, not just this year, that there’s a limit to how many hours people can work. And, as police officers, you know, I’ve been a cop 33 years, tired cops make mistakes. They do. This is not the time to make mistakes as a cop. This is not the time to be on a job, tired, make mistakes. And I’m responsible for that, on the number of hours they worked. I’m responsible and I lose sleep over decisions to work them for 12 hours without a day off. So we didn’t do it last weekend. I didn’t do it Memorial Day weekend for that very reason as well. This weekend we’re going to give them one day off. So we’re going to have an additional 12 hundred cops every day, an additional 12 hundred cops every day, starting Thursday through Sunday. And we’ll be deployed throughout our hotspots. We’ll be working with city services. We’re engaging our violence interrupters. And so it’s a full-court press.
Our endgame is arrests for the precursors to violence. So, every day we’re going to be clearing the corners. Every day we’re going to be clearing these drug corners to protect these young people from violence. But, when we clear the corner, we’re pleading with the court systems, keep them in jail through the weekend. If we make an arrest Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, we’re pleading — through the weekend, at least, not for forever. Through the weekend, let’s protect these young people who are a victim of their circumstances in many cases. They have no other opportunity. They’re on that corner but for mentoring, job, education. Some are personally responsible for that decision. But many are being manipulated by these evil masterminds in this drug market who are making tens of thousands of dollars a day from these drug corners.
So, long-version question, but I had two cups of coffee. So I’m on a roll. Let’s keep going. Who’s next? Two more questions and then we’re going to wrap it up, thank you. Oh, wait a minute, hang on. Let me try to control this a little bit. Who has not had a chance to ask a question? So, she has not and you have not. So, you two are the last two.
REPORTER: Thank you. So you talked a little bit about this already but, just going back, about, what sort of help do you need in assisting with these young children you’re talking about? They’re getting sort of dragged into this violence. And then I’m sort of just trying to back up but you don’t want these young people dragged into the criminal justice system, then also we need longer sentences [indecipherable]. Could you sort of, I mean, touch on those two points?
BROWN: Sure, so what we have and, again, I realize my two predecessors have said similar things. I’m trying to dig deeper into this same conversation, this same debate. Hope I could move the needle a little bit on this debate. I understand McCarthy and Johnson had similar debate, conversation, took the same stance with little-to-no movement in keeping people in jail longer that commit precursors to violent offenses.
So I will say this. We don’t want to arrest these young people from these corners. We don’t see that as significant an impact on violence because there is others that will come replace them. We realize the revolving door of this. There is an opportunity — because I’m really a community-policing person, we’re just faced with a lot of violence and, in a COVID situation, you can’t get out in crowds and really do a lot of community policing right now — what we have is that ride to jail with these young people. That time, and Chief [of Patrol Fred] Waller brought it up to me a couple weeks ago, we need to start mentoring these young people on that ride to jail. But we have to offer them options. In other words, if we say, Get off the corner and stop that behavior of selling drugs, carrying a gun. We have to, as a city, say, And let me introduce you to an option that will help you provide for your family so that you don’t see this as the only option.
Does that make sense? So that’s beyond policing but it is policing, in my opinion. It is policing. And so I’m asking — and the mayor understands this, there’s a lot of support around this — we just need a sense of urgency around this issue. This is an immediate impact. This is, like, right-now solutions to these young people who we are having to arrest just to have some semblance of law and order. We can’t just let – drive by the corners and let them do what they’re doing. We have to, at some point, have an impact. And so we’re not left with no plan.
So, the more immediate plan is more collaboration with our federal partners. As you saw last week, we had the Wicked Stones investigation come to a conclusion, where several of these masterminds were taken to jail for federal charges with the hopes of long federal sentences for their murdering and selling of drugs and guns. We hope to have more of those in the mid-term, not just the long term, to take one to two years, but the mid-level investigation. We hadn’t done that in a bit here in Chicago. We need to do a lot more of that. That was my two-week assessment here, is that, Where is the mid-level investigation? Let’s have some more immediate impacts on conspiracies to sale drugs and conspiracies to commit murder and conspiracies to be armed with weapons. That’s my assessment in the eight weeks I’ve been here, we need not just a street-level narcotics strategy or a long-term narcotics strategy, but that mid-term, you know, two to three months rolled up all the time with federal sentencing. But that is not what the federal system was meant to do, though. This is a stopgap measure just to meet the demand of the current violence that we see. This is going to be City of Chicago’s issue to deal with as it relates to what we are willing to accept as the level of violence in the criminal justice system in Chicago. Federal system was not meant for this. But we’re going to push the envelope in this area.
Yes, sir, last question.
REPORTER: Sir, could you give any more information about how these 12 hundred additional officers are going to be deployed? Is this a situation where they’ll just be standing on hot corners, basically in Austin and in Englewood [indecipherable]?
BROWN: Sure. Because we collect a lot of data, we know where our hotspots are for violence. And this is not the first Fourth of July in Chicago, so we know where they have been traditionally doing the Fourth of July weekend. I would say this will be a little bit different than previous Fourth of July weekends, given civil unrest, given COVID and given the level of violence that we’ve seen because our jails and our juries and other parts of the criminal justice system have basically not been opened to full capacity for the most part. So we have the more recent data of where hotspots, where violence have occurred and we’ll deploy to those areas with the additional officers in a pre-deployment effort if that makes sense. Thank you very much. I really appreciate it.
REPORTER: In the light of what the FOP president said. He said during the weekend that officers might be thinking twice before acting because of the protests.
BROWN: I wish I had time for political banter, man. I just don’t. Sorry. Thank you. Take care.