Chicago Cops Nap and Snack in the Ruins of Riots

If this is what cities are paying billions for, no wonder people are calling for defunding.


If you still haven't grasped the motivations of the Defund Police movement, Chicago has you covered.

Thursday afternoon, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot held a news conference to show images of 13 Chicago Police Department officers captured on surveillance cameras hanging out in the offices of Rep. Bobby Rush (D–Ill.). There they lounged around, napping, drinking coffee, and eating popcorn.

In the hours before this happened, looters targeted businesses in the strip mall where Rush's offices are located. After rioters left Rush's offices accessible, this pack of cops commandeered it and spent several hours there. Rush only learned about the officers' activities later, after someone reviewed the surveillance footage.

At the press conference, both Lightfoot and Rush condemned the officers' behavior.

"They even had the unmitigated gall to go and make coffee for themselves and to pop popcorn—my popcorn—in my microwave while looters were tearing apart businesses within their sight and within their reach," Rush said.

Police leaders have also condemned the officers' conduct, with Superintendent Don Brown accusing them of sleeping in middle of the riot while other cops were being pelted with rocks and getting injured trying to stop looters. He added: "if you sleep during a riot, what do you do on a regular shift when there's no riot? What are you doing when there's no crisis?"

What's not yet clear is whether police were doing this instead of protecting the neighborhood. The looting of the plaza happened on May 31. The Chicago Tribune reports that the timeline of the video shows police there after 1 a.m. that night, technically on June 1. Also of note here: Chicago's NBC 5 talked with owners and workers of other businesses in the area who were confused why the police didn't block off the two entrances to the strip mall to make it harder for looters.

There are several ways Chicago Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara could have responded to this outrage-inducing discovery. Would you like to guess which tactic he chose?

  • Joining in condemning the officers for sleeping on the job and taking liberties with somebody else's property.
  • Apologize on behalf of the officers but note that they were under significant stress and exhaustion over their duties.
  • Call for a thorough investigation and remind everybody that police officers accused of misconduct are entitled to due process before we cast judgment for them.
  • Attack the mayor and demand that she apologize to these police officers in the video.

Yes, of course Catanzara chose the last route. He said it was a "disgusting accusation" and that she owed the officers in the video an apology. In addition to insisting that the looting was over when the police took over the office, he claimed that the police were there at Rush's request to protect the premises. Rush's office denies this.

Even if the rioting had ended for the evening, we're still left with a group of cops, who are apparently on shift, simply spending hours hanging out in an office inside a strip mall they completely failed to protect.

If this is what the citizens of Chicago are paying police for, why are they even bothering? It's the fundamental question at the root of this new push to cut police spending. If they're not actually preventing or fighting crime, why are they consuming so much of city's budgets? If police insist that we need them to prevent criminals from running roughshod over our communities, what exactly are we looking at here?