Lightfoot orders end to background checks on people who speak at Police Board hearings

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Mayor Lori Lightfoot is lashing out at the Chicago Police Department after learning about controversial background checks conducted on people who were speaking at public meetings.

Calling the practice "stupid," Lightfoot ordered the department Wednesday to stop investigating the backgrounds of people who signed up to speak during public comment periods at Chicago Police Board hearings. The board is the city's disciplinary panel for police officers.

"It's just stupid. People should be able to come to a public gathering, stand up, sign their name and state whatever they want without the fear of being investigated by the Chicago Police Department," Lightfoot said.

The department has been compiling profiles through criminal background checks and internet searches, a practice that began under former CPD Supt. Garry McCarthy. Some of the people that were subjected to the background checks include a Laquan McDonald community activist and a woman who accused a police officer of sexual assault.

"I can't say I'm stunned, but I'm real damn angry about it and this is never going to happen again," Lightfoot said.

The department described the purpose of the investigations as "providing a brief summary on an individual's history and interactions with the Chicago Police Department so that we could better address pertinent issues of concern."

Some aldermen don't buy it.

"I think there needs to be some justification and some accountability on why they were doing it," said Ald. Anthony Beale, 9th Ward.

Beale is calling for public hearings on the issue.

Public Safety Committee Chair Ald. Chris Taliafero said it's unlikely he'll call hearings, but he's asking the police department to apologize. Taliafero said he's concerned the issue will further erode the lack of trust between police and the community.

"There is a consent decree and there's been some reforms already put in place, but this has the possibility of putting us right back on the first base," said Taliafero, 29th Ward.
Copyright © 2019 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.