Report: Chicago Democrat Mayor Lori Lightfoot Quietly Lobbied for Qualified Immunity

lecture by Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot speaks during a news conference in Hall A at the COVID-19 alternate site at McCormick Place in Chicago, Friday, April 10, 2020. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

As widespread efforts from the far-left gained momentum to end qualified immunity over the last year, documents show Chicago Democrat Mayor Lori Lightfoot and her staff lobbied against the movement.

In email communication between Lightfoot and staff have shown last July, the mayor directed her staff to “gather data” on qualified immunity in order to be prepared for a “push during budget to ‘defund’ the police, and efforts underway in Springfield,” according to one of the documents obtained and reviewed by South Side Weekly.

Weekly believes the “push” the mayor refers to is last year’s efforts by grassroots groups, legislative groups, and some City Council members to reduce the Chigaco Police Department’s (CPD) share of Chicago’s budget. Including the legislative efforts that were connected to policy reform last year.

Additionally, the email communication revealed the cost of civil rights lawsuits for any type of “police misconduct” that has incurred costs on the city. “Police misconduct have [sic] cost the City more than $500 million since 2009, while individual officers were responsible for paying about $2 million in settlements,” according to the emails reviewed by Weekly.

The effort to end qualified immunity is the practice that protects police officers from being personally sued for civil rights violations.

Weekly detailed the widespread effort going around the country:

On March 25, the Illinois House Restorative Justice Committee advanced legislation to end qualified immunity. Two states have banned it, and the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and endorsed by President Joe Biden in his April 28 address to Congress, would limit it in every state. In Illinois, the SAFE-T Act, a wide-ranging criminal justice reform bill signed into law by Governor J.B. Pritzker in February, established a task force to “review and reform” qualified immunity.

According to the obtained communication, “the mayor’s staff prepared data to present to U.S. Senator Dick Durbin’s staff regarding those issues.” Though the report noted, Lightfoot, herself, remained silent on qualified immunity but included police reform as a pillar of her 2017 campaign for mayor.

In another reviewed email, the mayor wrote, “There is a suggestion that the Legislature is going to push for stripping away qualified immunity because the plaintiffs’ bar is falsely claiming that police officers are never held accountable.” Though according to the report, Lightfoot had “directed her staff to consider how to present data on how much the City has spent on ‘police settlements, judgments and attorneys’ fees’ in misconduct and civil rights lawsuits, apparently to bolster her case.”

In preparation to meet with the Senator’s staff on the issue, the report showed the mayor’s staff had “gathered data on how many federal civil rights lawsuits (or ‘FCRL’) had been dismissed because of qualified immunity in 2019.” According to the communication between, the mayor and her staff found two dismissals that year. While another email said, “FCRL has 100s of cases.”

The mayor and her staff found two dismissals that year in 2019, according to the email records obtained between the mayor and her staff. “FCRL has 100s of cases,” another email said.

The report showed, “while the resulting analysis was unable to include information about individual officers being held accountable for misconduct, it did detail the collective cost of CPD’s civil rights violations to the City.”

In the end the results were found to be “eye-opening,” according to another of the emails that was reviewed.

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