CHICAGO — Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the city shouldn’t be sending police officers out on the street without body-worn cameras but defended the department’s account of a shooting in the Englewood neighborhood that allegedly touched off looting and civil unrest over the weekend.
On a conference call with reporters Tuesday afternoon, Lightfoot acknowledged the Chicago police officer who shot 20-year-old Latrell Allen in Englewood did not have a body camera and blamed it on an issue with the city’s contract for camera purchases as well as the Police Department’s recent reorganization.
Police have said the officer was part of a new unit designed to swarm into crime hot spots and that the unit recently established by police Superintendent David Brown has not yet been assigned cameras. Police have said Allen shot at them first, but the lack of a camera on the officer so far has left them unable to back up the claim with video.
Lightfoot said the Police Department has made a concerted effort to redeploy officers to districts, including sending people who were formerly in plainclothes. The mayor said she was recently told by police that the movement has left issues with the number of body cameras available but that the city is “aggressively” working to renegotiate its camera contract.
“We can’t have people out on the street who are interfacing with the public on a regular basis that don’t have body cameras,” Lightfoot said.
Still, she defended the police account of Allen’s shooting. Authorities said the newly created community safety team responded to a call about a man with a gun in the Englewood neighborhood. Officers found a man walking east on 57th Street and Racine Avenue matching the physical description and attempted to stop him, police said.
The man later identified as Allen fled, police have said, leading to a foot chase by officers. Authorities said that Allen shot at the officers during the chase and that two officers returned fire. Allen was later charged with attempted murder and ordered held Tuesday on $1 million bond.
Lightfoot said “obviously it would’ve been better if there were body cams there,” but there’s other corroborative evidence the Civilian Office of Police Accountability is reviewing, including the 911 call for service and pod cameras in the area.
Chicago police Superintendent David Brown, on the same media phone call, said the city is “scrubbing” the inventory of body cameras to redistribute some to teams that were at one point plainclothes but are now patrolling.
Though Lightfoot has been critical of the camera contract negotiated under Rahm Emanuel, the previous administration defended its deal. Walter Katz, who was deputy chief of staff for public safety under Emanuel, took to Twitter to say the city didn’t want cameras to be shared so they could be easier to audit.
“As (body-worn cameras) were rolled out across country several years ago, one of big discussions was to assign or share BWC,” Katz tweeted. “Assign meant an officer was responsible for their BWC, and auditing was easier.”
That plan was a matter of public record, he went on. “It wasn’t a secret.”
Authorities have said the shooting of Allen led to misinformation being spread on social media, including that police had killed a 15-year-old boy. Tensions in the neighborhood eventually cooled, police said, but not before social media also had been used to circulate calls to loot stores in downtown Chicago.
An ensuing police deployment of 400 officers was unable to head off the ensuing chaos that left scores of stores damaged. Some 100 arrests were made, authorities have said.
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