Greising: Lightfoot Talks Tough to the FOP — Will It Backfire?

Mayor Lori Lightfoot has gone out of her way to draw a distinction between FOP leadership and rank-and-file officers. Will it bring reform?

Photo of Chicago police officer: iStock; photo of Lightfoot: Timothy Hiatt/Getty Images

BGA President David Greising writes every other week for the Chicago Tribune Opinion section.

In the passage of just a few days, Lori Lightfoot’s mayoralty transitioned from initial cool command of the new job to a kerfuffle over an unproved rumor to another blistering putdown at the start of a City Council meeting.

The recipient this time was Patrick Murray, vice president of the Fraternal Order of Police. He had the temerity, at the start of Wednesday’s council meeting, to criticize Lightfoot for not including the FOP in the police reform process.

The mayor pushed back. “Any time the FOP wants to do any other thing than object and obstruct (reform), I’ll be more than willing to meet with you,” Lightfoot said.

The crowd in the council chambers loved it, clapping loudly for the style and substance of Lightfoot’s remarks.

The dismissive smackdown is becoming a signature of the mayor’s first days in office. She similarly silenced Ald. Edward Burke, 14th, at her first council meeting. With this one, Lightfoot regained her footing after an unsteady few days. A few days earlier, the Better Government Association, of which I am president, called her out for repeating an unsubstantiated rumor that before the violent Memorial Day weekend the FOP had told its members, “If you see some criminal activity, just lay back, do nothing.”

Lightfoot seemed not to realize that the mayor of the city of Chicago can’t deal in gossip. Words and facts matter. Lightfoot had said she hoped the rumor wasn’t true. But simply by repeating it she breathed life into it.

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