Chicago’s Lightfoot under fire for allowing top aides time off ahead of deadly July 4th weekend

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Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is facing criticism for allowing two of her top aides to take time off ahead of the deadly Fourth of July weekend, despite vowing an “all hands on deck” strategy to addressing an increased number of shootings seen across the city. 

Lightfoot’s chief of staff Sybil Madison told city workers in an email that he would be out of office the Thursday and Friday before the Fourth of July, the Chicago Tribune reported. Sources told the newspaper that Lightfoot’s deputy mayor for public safety, John O’Malley, was also out of the office for most of the week leading up to the holiday weekend, which left at least 100 people shot, 18 fatally.

Their absences appeared to have been already scheduled as Lightfoot, as well as Chicago Police Supt. David Brown, lamented that a City Council emergency meeting called on July 2 would distract from efforts to reduce street crime during what was anticipated to be the most violent weekend of the year, Fox 32 Chicago reported. Brown answered questions during the six-hour-long meeting on his summer public safety plan that includes canceling time-off for officers. 

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Chicago officers worked 12-hour shifts during the Fourth of July weekend to increase street presence.  

“We were told the meeting we had last week was a waste of time but your people are out of the office,” South Side Alderman Anthony Beale told the Tribune, criticizing Lightfoot’s “poor leadership” in allowing her top deputies to take time out of the office “when we need them the most.”

“She allowed her staff to go on vacation days the week before what is traditionally the most dangerous weekend in the city of Chicago – is outrageous,” Alderman Ray Lopez, who represents the 15th Ward, told Fox 32. “It shows there’s a complete lack of commitment toward addressing the violence.”

“We’ve heard about the ‘whole of government’ approach for weeks now,” he echoed in separate remarks to the Tribune. “But I guess that doesn’t apply to the people responsible for actually creating the policies.”

In response to the criticism, Lightfoot’s office issued a statement Friday while the mayor was returning from a political fundraising trip in California. 

“Working in the mayor’s office is a 24/7, 365 job, and members of the mayor’s senior staff are constantly connected,” a spokesman wrote. “Those responsible for on-the-ground operations continued to execute over the holiday weekend, and the Chief of Staff and Deputy Chief of Staff were fully engaged every day.”

Shortly after assuming office in May 2019, Lightfoot banned top leadership at the police department from taking time off during the summer months, arguing it set a bad example for rank-and-file officers.

Chicago Police Department statistics released Tuesday showed that at least 100 people were shot, and 18 were murdered from Friday evening through Sunday night. The wounded victims included 11 children – some as young as 5 and 6 – and two police department members.

During a press conference Tuesday after the most violent weekend of 2021 so far, Supt. Brown railed against the court system and its “out of control” principle allowing allegedly violent offenders to be released back onto the city streets to commit their own form of justice. 

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“There are too many violent offenders and too little consequence in our courts. There are too many illegal guns in our city and too little consequences in the courts,” the city’s top cop said. “The courts have created an unsafe environment for large crowd gatherings because you’ve released people charged with murder back into these same communities where they committed this heinous crime.”

His remarks came a day before another Chicago police officer and two federal agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) were shot and wounded early Wednesday while the undercover vehicle they were riding in was fired upon while attempting to drive onto a freeway. That same day, President Biden was greeted at the airport by Lightfoot during his scheduled trip to the Chicago-area. 

Fox News’ Stephanie Pagones contributed to this report.