Illinois Justice Project

Question one

The Role of the Mayor in Criminal Justice Reform


Lori Lightfoot Answer 

What is your position on the perceived balance between pursuing criminal justice reform efforts and the requirements for achieving safety outcomes for law enforcement? Does the pursuit of these two goals conflict or go hand-in-hand?

I believe that that is a false dichotomy. A mayor can pursue meaningful criminal justice reform while also ensuring public safety. I am the only candidate in this race that has a broad depth of experience in dealing with issues related to police brutality, accountability and police and criminal justice reform. My perspective on these issues stems from my roles as a federal prosecutor, the head of the former Office of Professional Standards, head of the Police Accountability Task Force (PATF), whose report served as the underpinnings for both the Obama Department of Justice (DOJ) report and recommendations on the Chicago Police Department (CPD) and the consent decree, president of the Chicago Police Board, and a board member of the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights.

 My body of work demonstrates my commitment to ensuring that public safety is available to everyone and in every neighborhood, that officers must be held accountable for misconduct and that taxpayers cannot continue to shoulder the burden of unchecked misconduct manifested in settlements, judgments, and attorneys' fees currently totaling more than $500 million in the last seven years. As detailed in my 16-page public safety plan, I will continue and accelerate the pace of reform within the CPD, including implementing civilian oversight of CPD, ensuring officers receive training and resources spelled out in the consent decree, including more officer wellness resources, training police officers on interacting with youth, enlisting health professionals to serve as co- responders with CPD officers and expanding efforts to diversify CPD. In an effort to further repair relationships between the police and the communities they serve, I will create a new chief diversity office for CPD, design a real community policing strategy that rebuilds what was lost when CPD disinvested in CAPS, undertake peace and reconciliation efforts, involve communities in police training, and require police recruits to participate in a two week orientation program in the first districts to which they are assigned.

The current Mayor of Chicago has played a role in determining the direction of criminal justice policy at both the city and state level. As mayor, would you continue that involvement? If so, would the substance of your role and advocacy change from the current administration? If so, how?

Yes. As mayor, I will continue to advocate for criminal justice reforms at the local, state and federal levels.

If you support furthering reform efforts, should next steps focus solely on reducing incarceration of low-level offenders or go beyond? Are there efforts that you believe need to be pursued or current efforts that need to be abandoned?

I support efforts aimed at reducing prison and jail populations by keeping non-violent and low-level offenders out of jail while they await trial. As mayor, I will work with local, state and federal leaders, policing and criminal justice experts to identify ways to further reform the criminal justice system.