CHICAGO (CBS) — The Chicago Police Department has suspended at least 12 officers accused of lounging, napping, making coffee and popping popcorn in Congressman Bobby Rush’s campaign office in June while looters tore apart the strip mall outside.
Two police sources tell CBS2 Investigator Brad Edwards at least a dozen officers and command staff will face multi-week suspensions.
At the time of the incident, Mayor Lori Lightfoot pledged to hold the officers involved accountable for their actions, but declined comment on the suspensions Thursday afternoon, referring questions to CPD.
In a statement, CPD spokesman Tom Ahern said the department’s Internal Affairs Bureau has completed its investigation of the officers seen inside Rush’s office, and “The members have been notified of the results of the investigation.”
Ahern did not provide specifics on how many officers face suspensions, or how long the suspensions are.
“Each member may elect to challenge the decisions based on their collective bargaining agreements, which initiates the grievance process. We are unable to release further information regarding the results of the investigation at this time due to the ongoing grievance process,” Ahern said in an email.
The Chicago Fraternal Order of Police did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the suspensions, but it’s likely they’ll appeal the decisions.
The incident happened on June 1, 2020, at Rush’s campaign office at 5401 S. Wentworth Ave., as protests and looting were underway throughout the city in the wake of the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. Lightfoot and Rush were furious that while other officers were dealing with the unrest, at least 13 officers were caught on video relaxing in the congressman’s office.
“One was asleep on my couch in my campaign office. They even had the unmitigated gall to go and make coffee for themselves and to pop popcorn, my popcorn, in my microwave,” Rush said at the time. “They were in a mode of relaxation and did not care about what was happening. They did not care. They absolutely did not care.”
Lightfoot apologized to Rush for the behavior of the officers, who she said “tarnished the badge,”
“It’s such a profound disrespect. It’s a personal embarrassment to me. And I’m sorry that you and your staff, even had to deal with this incredible indignity,” Lightfoot said. “And I can tell you one thing for certain, not one of these officers will be allowed to hide behind the badge and go on like nothing every happened. Not anymore. Not in my city. Not in your city.”
City officials have said there were at least 13 officers who were directly involved in the incident, including three supervisors. In video images, the CPD officers are seen sleeping on a couch, sitting around checking their phones, and making coffee.
“I believe we should take the strongest possible action. Particularly with supervisors,” Lightfoot said at the time. “There will be a reckoning with the FOP (Fraternal Order of Police) and that moment is now.”
Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown also criticized the CPD officers seen in the video and promised that those involved will be dealt with.
“Angry. Disgusted doesn’t really express it can’t begin to express how I feel,” Brown said. “I’ve never seen anything like this in my 34 years, Brown said. “These officers did nothing to help their fellow officers. In those instances they stood by and just did nothing. The supervisors should be even held to a higher and will be held to a higher standard. They fail to live up to the standard, the integrity that we have as a policeman.”
But the Fraternal Order of Police, the union representing rank-and-file officers, has said the images were taken out of context.
FOP Lodge 7 First Vice President Michael Mette told WBBM Newrsadio that he thought the officers were set up – and claims it was the mayor’s way of deflecting blame for her own incompetence during the protests and looting that were sparked by Floyd’s death.
“I find it very difficult to think that these officers were just inside Bobby Rush’s office without permission,” Mette told the station.
Mette also told WBBM Newsradio that Lightfoot and Rush’s news conference appeared “staged,” and said it came as Lightfoot is trying to remove protections from officers accused of wrongdoing.
FOP President John Catanzara has said someone from Rush’s staff asked police to be there, and they were told to make themselves at home, but Rush has vehemently denied that, and a group of ministers said if the union can’t prove that claim, they want an apology.
“We are demanding that the FOP president produce evidence that one of Rush’s staffers gave the officers permission to make themselves at home or apologize publicly for lying in an attempt to cover-up and defend the officer’s illegal activity,” said Rev. Andre Smith, CEO of Chicago Against Violence.