For well over a year, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has trumpeted the importance of allowing citizens to file anonymous complaints against the city’s police officers, saying it was “nothing short of historic” when an arbitrator finally allowed CPD to investigate unsigned complaints against department supervisors.
But Lightfoot took a much different tone last month when an anonymous complainant asked the city’s inspector general to investigate the circumstances surrounding the demotion and reassignment of decorated 1st District CPD Cmdr. Jacob Alderden.
“This anonymous complaint is completely bogus and why there has to be special care when people try to manipulate the IG system to settle their own grievances,” Lightfoot fired back to the complainant just 11 minutes after they sent it to Ferguson at 7:39 on Saturday morning, June 12.
“Come out of the shadows and submit to an on the record interview,” Lightfoot challenged. “There are protections for legitimate whistleblowers.”
CWBChicago received the complaint, emails, copies of text messages, and other city documents from an individual who secured them via an open records request. The individual asked to be identified only as a “person within CPD headquarters.”
The individual who complained to Ferguson claimed to be a city employee. And they stood their ground after hearing from the mayor directly.
“If I knew for a fact you’d be mayor the rest of my career I’d out myself right now,” the person told Lightfoot. “While anonymous, the complaint is legitimate. I think the IG and monitor will easily be able to corroborate it and I’ve provided where I am certain electronic evidence can be recovered.”
Less than 30 minutes after sending that response to the mayor, the complainant changed their mind.
“I just spoke to former Commander Alderden,” the complainant told Lightfoot in a follow-up message. “He wants this all over with and he has asked that I withdraw this complaint and I respect his wishes. I’m sorry for wasting your time.”
And so, less than three hours after an anonymous complainer asked the inspector general to look into allegations against the city’s two highest-ranking cops, the complaint was withdrawn.
But Lightfoot wasn’t quite done. She forwarded the entire email chain to Brown and his first deputy, Eric Carter, shortly after the complainant relented.
“FYI,” she wrote.
Both the Chicago Police Department and inspector general websites specifically state that concerned citizens can file anonymous complaints about CPD for investigation by Ferguson’s team. The CPD site says police officers can submit anonymous IG complaints, too.
Neither Lightfoot’s press office nor her press secretary, Cesar Rodriguez, responded to questions about the mayor’s apparent intervention in the request for an investigation. We were also curious to know why the mayor believes anonymous complaints against police officers and CPD supervisors should be investigated, but an anonymous complaint against CPD’s two highest-ranking cops should not.
The IG complaint was filed and retracted the day before CWBChicago reported that Alderden had been reduced in rank and reassigned for failing to follow Brown’s order to post police resources outside Remington’s, a steakhouse at 20 North Michigan Avenue.
“Did he say how many cars he wants to stay at Remingtons?”
The documents and text messages provided to CWBChicago offer more details about how Remington’s came to enjoy front-door attention from the police department.
Based on the messages, it all began on May 4 when someone from Remington’s management group sent a complaint to the office of 42nd Ward Ald. Brendan Reilly about a large group of teens that ran rampant in the Loop the previous weekend. The name of the author was redacted by the city.
“Fights broke out and guest[s] that were sitting on our patio were assaulted, harassed, and terrified,” the restaurant rep wrote. “No police officers were dispatched to help control this crowd, and protect the well being of our staff and guests.”
Reilly’s staff forwarded the complaint to the 1st District’s second-in-command, Capt. Sheamus Mannion, nine days later.
Mannion, replied, “at one point, there were dozens of officers as well as a police wagon in front of that establishment and Starbucks.”
Things got serious on May 25 when a Remington’s rep contacted Reilly’s office about another “large group” incident that left a 20-year-old shot in the Loop.
That afternoon, Brown texted contact information for the head of CPD’s citywide Crisis Intervention Response Team, Cmdr. Darrell Spencer, to someone at Remington’s, according to the city’s documents.
Brown also sent contact information for Remington’s “owner” to Spencer.
“I just talked to him,” Spencer replied less than ten minutes later. “I spoke with Jake [Alderden] as well who agreed to put a car in front of the restaurant when the kids show up.”
“It’ll take more than one car,” Brown texted back. “Let’s put several…thanks.”
Spencer forwarded Brown’s “several” car order to Alderden.
“All assigned to Remington’s?” the commander asked.
“Feel free to call the Sup for clarification, but that’s what it sounds like.”
About an hour later, Alderden told Spencer via text that Brown didn’t reply to his message.
“Did he say how many cars he wants to stay at Remingtons? Trying to clarify before I return the call to the guy from Remingtons that he talked to,” Alderden wrote.
“All he said was several. Didn’t give me an exact number. On the mayors call he mentioned it. Stating how the owners business is being drastically affected. The mayor chimed in as well,” Spencer texted.
Meanwhile, Doug Dunlay, one of Remington’s owners, also emailed Lightfoot’s deputy chief of staff, Kelsey Nulph, about the problems. Dunlay told CWBChicago on Wednesday that he was familiar with Nulph because the restaurant had catered an event for the mayor’s office.
Nulph looped in Lightfoot’s chief of staff, Deputy Mayor for Public Safety John O’Malley, and the deputy mayor for economic and neighborhood development.
O’Malley responded to Dunlay that night.
“I will be calling you to discuss your concerns,” O’Malley wrote, adding that he and Brown “toured the area” during the most recent “large group” incident. He then looped in Brown’s chief of staff.
The next day, May 27, Alderden brought his leadership team up to speed in an email: “Based on recent conversations please ensure that if we have another group of teens disturbing the peace around Millennium Park/Michigan Avenue that two cars are assigned to 20 N. Michigan (Remington’s Restaurant) to ensure the business is not impacted again. Ensure the officers are out of the car.”
“Thank you,” Spencer replied upon seeing the email.
“Descended in droves”
The kids apparently came back on June 5.
“They literally descended on the area in droves,” Dunlay said in an email to Nulph, Lightfoot’s aide. “They have absolutely zero respect for any business, any individuals safety or life and the Police or security guards. There was no police presence on the street like we were told there would be. Two squad cars arrived after we called the police commander and 911. But the police stood back and didn’t arrest anyone and didn’t really clear the crowd. We had a few ‘kids’ jump over our patio flower boxes and run through our patio scaring and terrorizing our guests.”
“Can we set a meeting with the Mayor?…I’m truly afraid that very soon there will be someone shot and killed around, in front or IN our restaurant,” Dunlay continued.
“Please help, we feel very helpless in this situation.”
Within hours, Dunlay’s email ended up in Brown’s and Carter’s inboxes.
Alderden, the decorated downtown commander, would be demoted and reassigned to the department’s take-a-report-over-the-phone unit by the end of the week.
But the kids weren’t done.
Hundreds of young people flooded Millennium Park and the Loop on the evening of July 4, launching fireworks at cops and passersby, jumping on cars, and creating havoc for hours.
But this time was different. For the first time, CPD established a curfew for teens and made mass arrests of violators. At least 52 juveniles were taken in. Why the new approach? A source said Lightfoot decided to bite the political bullet and allow cops to sweep the teens up.
“It has gotten a lot better”
Dunlay, of Remington’s ownership, said Wednesday the large group problem has “gotten a lot better” since July 4, although some of his employees quit because of them.
And, contrary to our report that Remington’s was the police superintendent’s favorite restaurant, Dunlay said Brown has only dined at the restaurant one time. That was during a lunchtime visit when the top cop came by to talk about the problems Remington’s was having.
“We never demanded anything,” Dunlay said. “We just said, ‘We need your help.”