Keith Thornton, who gained widespread praise for his handling of Chicago police dispatching duties in the minutes after a gunman fatally shot Officer Ella French and gravely wounded her partner during a traffic stop in August, is fed up.
“Keith is p*ssed. Keith is p*ssed right now,” Thornton said as he opened a nearly 30-minute-long Facebook video rant about anemic staffing levels in a North Side police district.
You can watch the video here.
Thornton, who grew up in Chicago, has worked as a police dispatcher since April 2018, according to his LinkedIn profile. He left the city for a few years to become an officer on the Los Angeles Police Department and, later, to work in emergency medical services in California and the Philippines.
While Thornton’s video specifically discusses understaffing in the 16th (Jefferson Park) District, the issues he raises apply to every police district across the city because they have all lost police staffing under the stewardship of CPD Supt. David Brown.
“I’m really riled up right now,” Thornton said, noting that it was about 11 p.m. “I had a long day, and I’m riled up right now.”
Thornton told viewers that the Jefferson Park district “is so shorthanded with officers that, when you call 911, you’re not getting a quick response … officers are not coming to you … because we have very few officers within these neighborhoods.”
Jefferson Park officers are responsible for 30 square miles of the city lying between Belmont Avenue, Cicero Avenue, and the city limits, Thornton said.
“I’m talking about females being beaten. Shootings — a shooting came out a few days ago, and we couldn’t even get the unit over there … until 10-plus minutes later because there was no one,” Thornton continued.
The Jefferson Park district was staffed by 268 officers when Brown became superintendent in April 2020. There are 229 assigned to the district this month, according to the Chicago Office of Inspector General.
“They don’t replace the officers here that retire,” Thornton said. “They don’t replace the officers that get promoted.”
“The biggest one that I love: When all hell breaks loose in downtown Chicago … they’re sending five, six cars from this district, just like all the rest, to go sit on a post to protect downtown. It’s bull crap.”
Thornton goes on to demonstrate how limited staffing affects police responses.
“Now, Sally’s calling for the man who’s beating on her. The kid’s calling right here because he’s shot. The paramedics are on the scene of a car accident and they’re fighting. Here’s another car accident up here. Here’s a stabbing right here. Here’s a domestic battery right here. And no one’s coming,” he says while holding up a quickly-sketched visual aid that he said demonstrated how many patrol cars were not staffed in the 16th District as he was making his presentation.
“So [911 calls] stay lingering on the board of the district for hours and hours and hours, and no one’s coming until someone eventually frees up or the next shift comes in eight hours later to handle that call.”
“It’s smoke and mirror, guys.”
Thornton blamed Mayor Lori Lightfoot for CPD’s staffing problems in his video, which he accompanied with a post that said, “CPD is short manpower and you are being lied to by the mayor and CPD upper management.”
“All that lady cares about is her f*ckin’ self,” Thornton said of Lightfoot. “And I pray you’re watching this, ‘cuz you’re a disgrace, and I’m tired of it. And your city is tired of it. Matter of fact, it’s not your city.”