Police department refuses to give status of cops caught “lounging” in congressman’s office

A Chicago police officer lies on a couch in the campaign office of Congressman Bobby Rush on May 31, 2020.

One week after Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot accused a group of Chicago cops of lounging in Congressman Bobby Rush’s office during riots and looting last month, the Chicago Police Department is refusing to release basic information about the accused officers. The withholding of those details is not consistent with the way CPD has handled other recent cases of alleged misconduct.

CWBChicago this morning asked the police department how many cops had been identified from video of the incident. We also asked for the officers’ employment and assignment status and ranks.

The department refused to release any information because “the incident remains under investigation.” A spokesperson later sent a second email saying, “we can confirm that the officers have been identified” but “all other details are still under investigation.”

CPD has quickly released information about other officers who’ve recently been accused of misconduct backed by video evidence.

Last week, the department publicly announced that an officer who’s accused of using a homophobic slur during widespread rioting and looting had been stripped of his police powers pending an investigation.

The department also announced last week that another officer who flipped off protesters would be put on administrative duties pending an investigation.

Four days after two cops pulled a woman and her friend from a car and pinned them to the ground at the Brickyard Mall on May 31, the department announced the cops had been stripped of police powers pending an investigation.

All three of those cases involve matters that were captured at least partly on video.

Yet, inexplicably, the department won’t release any information about officers in Rush’s office who have been accused of misconduct by political and police leaders.

Lightfoot called a press conference last Friday afternoon and publicly apologized to Rush for the officers’ actions. In addition to the mayor and a U.S. Congressman, the police department’s superintendent, the department’s second-highest-ranking officer, and a third top-level CPD executive all publicly condemned the officers seen in the video provided by Rush.

The five leaders each accused as many as 13 officers of lounging on the job while other cops were trying to fend off riots and looters. Rush accused the cops of lounging in his office and making popcorn while “looters were tearing apart businesses within their sight and within their reach.”

The cops’ conduct was “absolutely indefensible” one of the CPD leaders said while Lightfoot promised that “not one of these officers will be allowed to hide behind the badge.” She said she was “angry” and “disgusted” and appeared to be on the verge of tears.

“Sleep during a riot?” Supt. David Brown said during the press conference. “What do you do on a regular shift when there’s no riots?“

The press conference was held less than 24 hours after Rush presented the video to Lightfoot, according to the mayor’s timeline. At the time, Lightfoot admitted that not all of the officers had been identified. Presumably, that means the cops hadn’t been asked to explain why they were in his office or their behavior there.

But, for some reason, the police department doesn’t want the public to know if those officers — who the mayor said “abandon[ed] their responsibilities and their obligation and their oath to serve and protect” — are still working the streets. These are the officers who Lightfoot said would be “given scrutiny by the state’s attorney and the U.S. attorney” for what happened in Rush’s office.

Doesn’t the public have a right to know if officers accused of such heinous behavior by the mayor and CPD’s top two executives are still on patrol?

If the police department freely announces the status of officers who are accused of wrong-doing by ordinary citizens, why won’t it provide the same basic information about a dozen cops who are publicly accused of wrongful behavior by a U.S. Congressman, the city’s mayor, the police superintendent, and his top deputy?

Since the allegations were laid out last Friday, the president of the Chicago police officer’s union has given a range of reasons that the officers were in Rush’s office.

John Cantanzara initially said the officers were invited into the office by Rush’s staff and were told to make themselves at home. Rush denied his assertion on Twitter.

More recently, Cantanzara told the Sun-Times the officers were assigned to the area “at the behest of someone in the upper ranks of the police department.”

“But at some point, the temperature dropped,” Cantanzara told the paper. “Some of ’em did no more than walk in, use the bathroom and walk back out. Other ones obviously did sit down and they made themselves coffee. Sorry. It was pretty damn chilly outside. They had nothing to eat. They made some popcorn.”

As for the cops who are seen with their heads on desks and lounging on Rush’s sofa, “they had already worked a 13.5-hour day and were due back at work four hours later on what was supposed to be their day off, the paper reported.

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CWBChicago was created in 2013 by five residents of Wrigleyville and Boystown who had grown disheartened with inaccurate information that was being provided at local Community Policing (CAPS) meetings. Our coverage area has expanded since then to cover Lincoln Park, River North, The Loop, Uptown, and other North Side Areas. But our mission remains unchanged: To provide original public safety reporting with better context and greater detail than mainstream media outlets. Our editorial email address is news@cwbchicago.com