City, Mayor Lightfoot tighten reins on Chicago police rule-breakers

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago police officials told the ABC7 I-Team on Tuesday that new internal investigations have begun into uniformed officers hiding their names and badge numbers during street violence in the wake of George Floyd's murder.

Photos and video obtained by the I-Team show officers with their personal identification covered up.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot last Friday first drew the line on officer's hiding their identities when she angrily warned that it was a blatant breaking of police decorum and wouldn't be tolerated. Mayor Lightfoot has been highly outspoken against police misconduct of any kind and vehement that it would not go undisciplined.

On Tuesday the city began its conduct offensive by busting down an unnamed patrolman who had been photographed last week using "a vulgar, offensive gesture directed at a member of the public while on duty and in uniform." The officer in the now-infamous double-finger photo has now been stripped of his police powers. That incident happened last Thursday; he's now on desk duty.

Mayor Lightfoot Tuesday explained why an officer flipping off the public is different than when she suggested the same thing to President Trump a few days earlier.

"I think that I think there's a big difference. First of all, I'm a public official. And I coded my words," said the mayor. "This officer is sworn to serve and protect the community and in a, in a heated circumstance, no doubt, but he went against his training, and he brought shame upon his department."

Also Tuesday, several officers seen photos obtained by the I-Team-joined others under investigation according to police for appearing to have covered up their names, badge numbers or both during nights of looting and last week's heightened street presence.

The pictures were taken by a suburban firefighter/paramedic who said he watched the police response on separate days last week in different parts of the city.

"They got their names and their badge numbers covered up," said James Seale, who took the photos. "They can pretty much do whatever they want, like there's, you know. No one's going to be able to tell who they are."

In a statement to the I-Team on Tuesday, CPD officials said, "All Chicago Police Officers (sic) are required to wear their unit assignment designator (sic), nameplate. The process to begin an internal investigation has been begun. CPD holds its officers to the highest professional standards and violations of the Department's policy will be addressed."

ABC7 legal analyst Gil Soffer said it would be easy to minimize police department badge and ID rule infractions. But Soffer, a former federal prosecutor, said the violations may indicate a larger problem.

"It undermines the public trust in the police and undermines transparency," said Soffer. "The mayor has made very clear that the police department values transparency, so it's a question of trust between the police and the public. That's the point of these requirements that these names these badges these stars be visible to the public."

Some Chicago police officers last week said they were concerned about violent protesters seeing their names and potentially targeting their families. There were some social media posts urging protesters to proceed to neighborhoods popular with police officers.

Tuesday Mayor Lightfoot also said she was onboard with looking at the state licensing of police officers, saying that manicurists and hair stylists need state licenses and that the same should be considered for police.
Copyright © 2020 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.