Don’t you just hate it when that happens? A hot mic moment with Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot during a city council meeting resulted in her opinion of a local police union leader being heard loud and clear. She thinks he is an “FOP clown.”
Mayor Lightfoot, a former President of the Chicago Police Board and Co-Chair of the Chicago Police Accountability Task Force, has a checkered past in her support of the Chicago FOP. As local FOP Vice President Patrick Murray approached the microphone to speak during public comments time in the city council’s meeting Wednesday, a microphone picked up Lightfoot on the dais saying “Back again. This is this FOP clown.”
Local station WGN captured the moment for posterity:
Murray was there to express support for the officers who were fired by the Chicago Police Board last week. They were fired over the alleged cover-up of the Laquan McDonald officer-related shooting. Lightfoot co-chaired the Task Force on Police Accountability at the time, which issued a report of the Chicago Police Department that prompted the U.S. Justice Department to begin a federal investigation into the police shooting of Laquan McDonald.
Afterward, when asked about her comment, Mayor Lightfoot said: “It was not appropriate for me to say that out loud.”
Asked if she’d apologize, Lightfoot said, “I think I just did. I think I said I shouldn’t have said that out loud.”
She was asked a third time about an apology and replied, “I’m sorry that I said it out loud.”
That’s not an apology. That’s an acknowledgment that others heard her say it and she got caught being disrespectful to the man. She is at the top of the food chain, after all. The president of the national FOP wants a real apology from Chicago’s new mayor and a whole lot less disrespect.
“How does she expect to work with the police department if she regularly disparages their leadership and refuses to communicate honestly with them?” Chuck Canterbury, president of the national FOP that represents 348,000 law enforcement officers, said in a statement. “We respectfully suggest she conduct herself with more dignity and less immaturity.”
In his statement, Canterbury said Lightfoot “went out of her way to say that she regretted calling Vice President Murray a ‘clown’ ‘out loud,’ suggesting that she holds this 30-year veteran law enforcement officer and the members he represents in contempt.”
The statement also called on the mayor to “build a better relationship with the officers of the Chicago Police Department.”
Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson refused to be dragged into the ruckus. His attitude is, hey, this ain’t my battle. Can’t everyone just work together and get a grip on Chicago’s violent crime mess?
“Look, that’s between the mayor and the Fraternal Order of Police,” Johnson said. “I’m gonna stay out of that fight. For all of us, we have to work together to try to make this city safe.”
She has a history with Murray. Back in May, on a local cable television show, Mayor Lightfoot repeated a rumor that the police union told the officers not to aggressively fight crime over the Memorial Day weekend. At that time, local FOP President Kevin Graham countered the mayor’s rumor-mongering with a statement on the union’s Facebook page declaring the rumors as false. That led to an unpleasant exchange between the mayor and Murray.
“You will have difficulty achieving your goals if you do not include us and our members’ support,” Murray said. “False rumors are spread when there’s a lack of communication.”
Lightfoot responded, “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.”
Friday Mayor Lightfoot told reporters that she has said all she is going to say about her hot mic moment.
The mayor was asked Friday about the controversy of her own making at this week’s City Council meeting that overshadowed her two legislative victories on ethics reform and predictable scheduling for low-wage workers.
“There’s no more to say about that. I said what I said the other day. It’s something I shouldn’t have said out loud. And I think we’ve got bigger fish to fry,” the mayor said at an unrelated news conference.
She tried to shift the conversation to the new police contract currently under negotiation. I don’t imagine that her public snarking about a union leader will help her side of the negotiations.
As for the police contract that’s likely headed to arbitration, Lightfoot said she’s negotiating with “all the police unions — not just the FOP, but the supervisors’ unions” as well.
“We’re trying to move those along expeditiously as possible. There’s a lot of issues. There’s issues around compensation, of course. But also issues around what we’re calling accountability measures,” she said.
“We’re working on both of those things to make the negotiations move forward as expeditiously as possible. But it’s more important that we get it right than move quickly.”
In the meantime, the Chicago FOP sent an email to all 50 aldermen. The union isn’t ready to let it go.
“As you are no doubt aware, Mayor Lori Lightfoot made a contemptuous remark to a 30-year veteran police officer and the Vice President of the Fraternal Order of Police…The mayor’s comments and refusal to apologize has portrayed our city in a poor light to the rest of the country,” the FOP’s field representative Robert Bartlett wrote.
“Now, more than ever, the city and the police should be working together to address the chronic violence that plagues our city. The mayor’s conduct…has intensified that divide. We hope that, as an elected member of the City Council, you will show the proper respect to Chicago’s finest by asking the Mayor to formally apologize so that we may move forward.”
Prior to Wednesday night’s kerfuffle, Graham and Lightfoot had ended their cold war last month. They had an extended meeting and both left expressing determination to rebuild their working relationship. Now it looks like they are back to square one. So much for civility and respect as the police contract negotiations continue.