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Note to Mayor Lightfoot and Team Trump: Politics should help, not hurt law enforcement

By Clarence Page, Tribune Content Agency on

As marriages of convenience go, Chicago’s crime-fighting partnership with the Trump administration looks awkward at best, strikingly in need of a pastor or perhaps a referee.

Attorney General William Barr was in town Wednesday to update the city on “Operation Legend,” a Department of Justice effort to help curb a horrendous surge in violent crime across the country.

Yet, conspicuously absent from Barr’s news conference Wednesday was the city’s mayor, Lori Lightfoot, and top Chicago police officials. Asked about the absences, Barr shrugged and noted they “were certainly invited and could have attended.”

“But,” he also added, it was “one of the odd things about our program in this city, some of the politics involved — I’m sure that was an element of it.”

And when Lightfoot was asked at a later news conference about the absence, she pointed out that, yes, indeed, there was a political motive to her absence.

“It was politics that made us decide not to be there,” she said. “We are never going to be used as a prop. Never.

 

“Not in this climate — particularly, unfortunately, not in a way that the Department of Justice, under Attorney General Barr has been used, in effect, as an adjunct of the Trump reelection campaign.”

The result was dueling news conferences as Barr and later Lightfoot announced dueling interpretations of who deserved credit for the modest but promising turnarounds that the city’s violent crime statistics took last month.

Barr credited Operation Legend. “Over the first five weeks of Operation Legend in Chicago, murders dropped by 50% over the previous five weeks,” Barr said. “August ultimately saw a 45% decrease in murders compared to July, and 35% compared to June.”

He also noted that the city’s statement on the crime drop credited changes in police strategies among other factors — without mentioning the federal contribution. “So,” he added, “that’s just the way things roll in Chicago.”

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