Light­foot de­fends plan to sweep drug cor­ners to re­duce hol­i­day vi­o­lence

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY FRAN SPIEL­MAN, CITY HALL RE­PORTER fspiel­man@sun­times.com | @fspiel­man

De­spite warn­ings that pre­emp­tive sweeps will “drive a wedge be­tween po­lice and com­mu­ni­ties of color,” Mayor Lori Light­foot on Wed­nes­day stood firmly be­hind Chicago Po­lice Supt. David Brown’s de­ci­sion to sweep young peo­ple off drug cor­ners over the July 4th week­end to pre­vent an­other hol­i­day bloodbath.

Brown has branded ar­rests tied to pos­ses­sion of guns and open-air drug mar­kets “pre­cur­sors to vi­o­lence” and vowed to sweep those cor­ners of the young peo­ple put there by drug deal­ers.

The su­per­in­ten­dent has pleaded with State’s At­tor­ney Kim Foxx and Chief Cir­cuit Court Judge Tim Evans to keep them in jail — at least over the long hol­i­day week­end — to pre­vent a con­tin­u­a­tion of the vi­o­lence that has gunned down four chil­dren over the last 10 days alone.

Wed­nes­day, Light­foot ar­gued the cyn­i­cal tac­tic of us­ing young peo­ple with­out crim­i­nal records was “shades of Larry Hoover from the 1990s,” re­fer­ring to the im­pris­oned leader of the Gang­ster Dis­ci­ples.

She said “drug en­ter­prises” are “lit­er­ally will­ing to fight to the deaths to keep those spots” be­cause some cor­ners can earn them $30,000 to $50,000 a day.

“Those gangs — they’re not out on the street. They’re reap­ing the bounty, but they’re putting these kids out on the street to do their dirty work. Kids who have a fu­ture. Kids who have a life,” the mayor said.

“We’ve got to stop that from hap­pen­ing. And that means go­ing up the food chain and get­ting the adults re­spon­si­ble for these heinous crimes and putting them be­hind bars. That’s what the su­per­in­ten­dent was talk­ing about.”

Karen She­ley, direc­tor of the po­lice prac­tices project at the ACLU of Illi­nois, con­demned the plans for pre­emp­tive sweeps as “more of the same” from a Chicago Po­lice Depart­ment that missed 70% of the dead­lines to com­ply with man­dates in the con­sent de­cree trig­gered by the po­lice shoot­ing of Laquan McDon­ald.

“The plan to sweep up Black and Brown young men in their neigh­bor­hoods across the city could have been ut­tered by a num­ber of his pre­de­ces­sors in lead­er­ship of the CPD. We have heard this all be­fore — pa­ter­nal­is­tic claims that young men should be in jail for their own safety,” She­ley was quoted in a state­ment.

“This ap­proach only fur­ther drive a wedge be­tween the CPD and com­mu­ni­ties of color.

The su­per­in­ten­dent again of­fers the dan­ger­ous sug­ges­tion that time in Cook County Jail is for these young peo­ple’s own good. This is a ter­ri­ble idea in the best of times — in the midst of a pan­demic, it could be a death sen­tence for these young men or mem­bers of their fam­ily on re­lease.”

Light­foot sloughed off the crit­i­cism.

“If any civil lib­er­ties group has a prob­lem with peo­ple who are killing our peo­ple over drug spots, let’s have a con­ver­sa­tion be­cause you need to have your at­ti­tude read­justed,” the mayor said.

“We’ve got crim­i­nal en­ter­prises that are us­ing vul­ner­a­ble young peo­ple. We all should be ap­palled by that. And I think they are. But we all ought to be be­cause that’s wrong. No child should be ma­nip­u­lated in that way. And that’s about us build­ing up this ecosys­tem of sup­port around our young peo­ple so they ac­tu­ally have hope and healthy choices and al­ter­na­tives so they don’t feel like the only life they can lead is be­ing on the cor­ner sup­port­ing some­body else’s crim­i­nal en­ter­prise.”

In an­nounc­ing the plan to sweep drug cor­ners, Brown ar­gued those young peo­ple he called “short­ies” are be­ing used be­cause they have no crim­i­nal records and, there­fore, face lighter penal­ties if caught. He also com­plained that, even when they are ar­rested, they’re in and out of jail quickly.

“Ev­ery day we’re go­ing to be clear­ing drug cor­ners to pro­tect these young peo­ple from the vi­o­lence. But when we clear the cor­ner, we’re plead­ing with the court sys­tems: Keep them in jail through the week­end,” the su­per­in­ten­dent said.

“Let’s pro­tect these young peo­ple, who are a vic­tim of their cir­cum­stances in many cases. They have no other op­por­tu­nity.”

ASH­LEE REZIN GAR­CIA/SUN-TIMES, FILE

Po­lice Supt. David Brown has vowed to sweep drug cor­ners over the long hol­i­day week­end to pre­vent a scourge of vi­o­lence.

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