Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has quietly lobbied against efforts to end qualified immunity for police officers – a practice that shields officers accused of excessive force and other civil rights violations from personal liability – despite legislative and grassroots support to end it.
Documents reviewed by South Side Weekly detailed how Lightfoot and her staff were lobbying against efforts to ban the practice starting last summer. She instructed staffers to gather data on qualified immunity in an effort to prepare for "the push during budget to ‘defund’ the police, and efforts underway in Springfield," according to one document in emails between Lightfoot and staff.
Some Illinois lawmakers have pushed to end the practice amid a national reckoning over race and policing. A criminal justice reform bill signed by Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker in February established a task force to review and reform the practice.
In emails from Lightfoot to her staff, the documents revealed that civil rights lawsuits stemming from police misconduct have cost the city of Chicago more than $500 million since 2009, while individuals officers were responsible for paying $2 million in settlements, the news outlet reported.
Lightfoot has not spoken much about the issue publicly but has supported some police reforms. The reports said her staff has lobbied the office of Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., to convince him qualified immunity was not a barrier to holding officers accountable.
"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," Lightfoot reportedly wrote in one email.
She reportedly engaged the city Corporation Counsel to draft an analysis of police lawsuits from 2009 through 2019 in an effort to support the case for keeping qualified immunity.
Her office did not immediately respond to a Fox News inquiry.
A spreadsheet obtained by the Weekly detailed payouts from a little as a few hundred dollars to thousands for alleged illegal searches, false arrests, harassment, brutality and other actions. One $11,000 payout stemmed from a 2014 arrest of a man who was strip-searched and had a gun put in his mouth during interrogation, the publication reported.
A $100,000 payment came after officers allegedly falsely arrested a man and shot his puppy twice in November 2019 Another $200,000 settlement came after officers allegedly ransacked a home, broke several items and shielded themselves from home security cameras.
Lightfoot has called for greater transparency from the Chicago Police Department. She pushed for the expedited release of police body-camera footage after the shooting of Adam Toledo, 13, who was killed by an officer following a short late-night foot chase.