“Defund the police” is a “nice hashtag,” Lightfoot said, but it ignores how reform works, will hurt efforts to diversify the force, and goes against what Chicago residents are telling her they want. That resistance has been echoed by Democratic mayors in New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Washington, D.C., where Mayor Muriel Bowser recently said “We fund the police at the level that we need it funded.”
Lightfoot, who sat down for a wide-ranging interview about police reform in the aftermath of Floyd’s death, said the debate about overhauling law enforcement is more nuanced than protesters will admit.
“Not a single person” Lightfoot has spoken to from Chicago’s neighborhoods has said they want fewer police officers on hand, she said a day after one of the city’s most violent weekends of the year where 106 people were shot and 14 killed, including a 3-year-old.
Literally “defund” the police, Lightfoot said, puts newer recruits the city needs at risk because they lack seniority. “We’d have to get rid of the youngest, most diverse, most well-trained officers.”
While Lightfoot may butt heads with the demands of “defund” protesters, she seems to align with the principles in spirit.
“The status quo has failed,” she said.
And she agrees with redirecting officers so they’re not answering social-service-related calls that they’re not always equipped to handle. The first responder has been police, and “that doesn’t make sense. And we know that,” she said. The city is looking at models used in other cities where dispatchers are trained to know who to send to an emergency call — maybe it’s a police officer, maybe a social worker, or both.