Chicago mayoral candidate says police should be able to 'hunt down' criminals like rabbits

"That police officer should be able to chase them down, and hunt them down like a rabbit, okay," Willie Wilson said.

Craig Wall Image
Saturday, January 21, 2023
Mayoral candidate in hot seat for 'hunting down' criminals comment
Chicago mayoral candidate Willie Wilson is in the hot seat for comments he made in the ABC7 debate about criminals needing to be "hunted down."

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Concerns about crime and public safety are taking center stage in the race for Chicago mayor.

During the ABC7 debate Wednesday night, the candidates pointed to safety concerns time and time again, with one candidate in the hot seat over his "tough on crime" comment.

WATCH ON-DEMAND | The Race for Chicago Mayor: The Candidates Debate

The candidates talked a lot about crime with different ideas and approaches for how to tackle it. But it was Willie Wilson who raised some eyebrows and some ire with his comments about criminals needing to be hunted down like animals.

Wilson in his closing statement during the debate said if elected mayor he'll remove the handcuffs on police officers so they are empowered to catch suspects fleeing to avoid arrest.

"Somebody run, chase somebody by foot or car, that police officer should be able to chase them down, and hunt them down like a rabbit, okay," Wilson said.

It was far from okay with Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who fired back at her rival after the debate was over.

"For a candidate for mayor to say that we ought to take the handcuffs off police and let them hunt down human beings like rabbits is an extraordinary thing," Lightfoot said. "I fully and utterly condemn it."

RELATED | Mayor Lori Lightfoot fields attacks from rivals over crime, public safety in ABC7 debate


Mayor Lori Lightfoot fielded attacks from her challengers over Chicago crime and public safety during the 2023 mayoral debate.

Wilson's comments also drew concern from the ACLU, a partner in the consent decree designed to reform Chicago police.

"That kind of rhetoric has no place anywhere in our politics, let alone coming from a mayoral candidate," said Joshua Levin, with ACLU of Illinois. "It runs counter to everything that smart reform on policing under the consent decree stands for."

Wilson, who lost a 20-year-old son to murder, doubled down on his comment by accusing Mayor Lightfoot of trying to make something out of nothing.

"So I think the mayor done lost her mind. I really do. I think she's out of touch," Wilson said. "You know, if she wasn't out of touch she would know she has to protect the people at all costs."

Afterwards, several candidates said this election could come down to a referendum on how Lightfoot has handled crime.

"Is it? Yes. I think the public is going to look for someone who has a strategy for dealing with the crime, the rising crime issue," candidate Paul Vallas said.

"The problem and the difference between our city and other cities is really that you know, leading with dissension is really not the way to get things done. And we could have done a lot better," candidate Ald. Sophia King said.

When asked if she was worried crime concerns could cost her a second term, Lightfoot said: "What I'm focused on is making sure our city is safe. That's the most important thing. For me that's now about politics, it's about basic obligations about me as a mayor and our administration to focus on making sure that our communities are safe."

The election is now less than six weeks away. If no one wins more than 50% of the vote, the top two finishers will square off in the run-off election on April 4.