CHICAGO - Chicago Police Supt. David Brown’s surprise decision to fire the man in charge of implementing court-ordered reforms — after Robert Boik protested deep cuts to his office — will not slow CPD compliance, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Wednesday.
Boik was summoned to Brown’s office and summarily fired in apparent retaliation after sending an email criticizing Brown’s decision to move 46 officers under Boik’s supervision to the Bureau of Patrol as part of a larger reorganization of the Chicago Police Department.
The firing triggered an avalanche of criticism from former top Lightfoot aides, including Charlie Beck, former interim police superintendent; Maurice Classen, Lightfoot’s first chief of staff; and Susan Lee, former deputy mayor for public safety.
Arne Duncan, a former U.S. Education Secretary and onetime Chicago Public Schools CEO, even went so far as to suggest Boik was "fired for blowing the whistle and telling the truth — that he has no support and that the administration is not serious about police reform."
The criticism recalls what Lightfoot said about then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel four years ago when she was Emanuel’s hand-picked Police Board president and co-chair of the Task Force on Police Accountability, created by Emanuel after the court-ordered release of the Laquan McDonald shooting video.
On Wednesday, Lightfoot insisted her commitment to reforming the department is unwavering, no matter who is running CPD’s Office of Constitutional Policing and Reform.
"People will say lots of things going out the door. But what I can tell you is that the work on reform, and particularly the emphasis on training, is going to continue going forward. … I don’t see any basis for any concern that we [will stop] and not meet our obligations under consent decree," the mayor said.
"The training is obviously critically important. It’s mandated by the consent decree. We will not take steps back and I don’t anticipate that’s going to happen. The work that needs to be done to continue on the path of reform is larger and bigger than one individual person. It always has been."
In the email that triggered his firing, Boik noted he recently proposed sending 23 officers to the police academy as "trainers" to ensure the department would meet its "court-mandated obligation to provide 40 hours of in-service training to every sworn officer."
Instead of approving that request, Boik was told to "send 46 individuals back to patrol."
Even as she argued CPD won’t miss a beat in the slow, steady march toward reform and consent decree compliance, Lightfoot defended Brown’s decision to move those 46 officers.
"Every single bureau within this department has been asked to give some additional resources, for officers who are doing non-police work to contribute with the crime fight, to help with security on the CTA. Every single bureau has said yes. There can be no exceptions. Period," the mayor said.
Alexandra Block, supervising attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, strongly disagreed with the mayor’s reasoning.
Block argued Boik’s office should have been exempt from the personnel raid. The transfer of dozens of officers can’t help but slow the painstaking reform effort, she said.
"The idea that the Office of Constitutional Policing can meet its goals without an executive director just doesn’t pass the straight-face test," Block told the Sun-Times.
"Even more concerning is the idea that the superintendent retaliated for a legitimate disagreement about whether the office could meet the consent decree’s requirements with the personnel provided. … It only stands to reason that, if a significant portion of the personnel detailed to that department are no longer available for consent decree compliance work, that work just isn’t going to get done. It shows the mayor and superintendent are not sufficiently prioritizing reform."
Block pushed back hard against Lightfoot’s claim that no unit of CPD can be exempt from the need to get officers out from behind desks and back on the streets or the CTA.
"Crime won’t come down and public safety won’t increase until the police department is working with the community, instead of against the community," she said
"Consent decree reforms are sorely, sorely needed to make policing effective in Chicago. This idea that they have different officers running from beat to beat, chasing yesterday’s headlines or hot spots, is not a long-term, effective strategy for policing, let alone an effective strategy for constitutional policing."