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Cook County sends officers, intel to aid suburban police: ‘We have been called everywhere’

Tuesday, June 02, 2020
The Daily Line
by Alex Nitkin

Cook County law enforcement agencies deployed hundreds of deputies and tapped into a vast intelligence-sharing operation to help suburban police tamp down looting that spread outside Chicago Sunday, county officials announced Monday.

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart sent more than 400 patrol officers across the county’s streets and highways after being “called everywhere to do virtually everything” by overwhelmed state and municipal police departments, he said during a press conference Tuesday alongside county board President Toni Preckwinkle. Many of the officers were called up from scheduled vacations or days off, Dart said.

Dart said his office concentrated its deployment Sunday night at the North Riverside Mall, where one person was shot to death and as many as 1,000 people were involved in a “concerted effort” to loot stores.

“These extraordinary acts of looting and vandalism are something no one department can handle,” Dart said, adding that he did not “conflate” the acts of property damage with “justified” nonviolent protests held over the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police last week.

The Cook County Department of Emergency Management and Regional Security also sent a “unified command post” vehicle to the site of the unrest in west-suburban North Riverside, according to department director Bill Barnes. The mobile command center “helps establish radio communications and allows all the public safety stakeholders to get together and plan next steps,” Barnes said.

County emergency management officials also worked from the county’s Emergency Operations Center in south-suburban Oak Forest to “provide reliable information in real time” to local police and fire agencies across the county’s 135 municipalities, and county officials “coordinated law enforcement response” based on state and regional intelligence, Barnes said.

Dart on Tuesday said he believed the North Riverside looting and another, smaller legion that “devastated” a strip mall in south-suburban Harvey were “definitely organized,” echoing statements from Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot that looting was part of a “coordinated” effort to “hijack” nonviolent protests.

“We’ve seen that there are peaceful protesters who are so thoughtful, trying to get their voices heard, and then there’s another group with no intention of protesting whatsoever,” Dart said. “Their only goal is to utilize these groups of peaceful protesters for their own criminal acts.”

Preckwinkle declined to say whether the looters were organized but said she distinguished between “protesters who have called out George Floyd’s murder” and “agitators whose purpose is to create chaos.”

Preckwinkle also deflected a question on how well she thinks Lightfoot is handling the response to unrest in Chicago, saying that she does “not grade other elected officials — I focus on doing my job.”

Looting pales against “endemic racism and routine murders,” Preckwinkle says

In contrast to Lightfoot’s extended comments on Monday condemning acts of property damage, Preckwinkle repeatedly refocused her statements on the “injustice” of Floyd’s death and the “routine” killings of unarmed black men at the hands of police.

Preckwinkle also called for more intensive training in the Chicago Police Department, where “we clearly have some challenges in terms of internal affairs,” she said.

“I know this because I know some people who used to work there who have shared that the department engages in cover-ups, as well as thorough investigations,” Preckwinkle said.

On Sunday, Preckwinkle shared a deeply personal statement of solidarity with nonviolent protesters, reflecting on the racism she experienced while attending a mostly white school in St. Paul. She described Floyd’s killing as a “murder,” saying that she feels compelled to “call out the endemic racism and routine murders of unarmed black people in this country” at the hands of police.

Preckwinkle also condemned the looting and vandalism but added that some people “loot as a result of the pain in their lives and the chaos in their communities.”

Preckwinkle said her foremost worry about looting is that it would provide “fodder” for “those who are deaf to the criticisms of this country” and want to discredit “the concerns of legitimate peaceful protesters.”

Businesses that suffered property damage may also get a shot at rebuilding with the help of the county’s $10 million Community Recovery Initiative, which is set to begin disbursing loans this month. Small businesses in suburban Cook County may apply through the program for zero-interest loans of up to $20,000 each, and independent contractors are eligible for up to $10,000 each.

Related: County launches zero-interest suburban loan program to fill ‘gaps’ in city, state business relief efforts

‘We will find space for you in the jail’

Dart estimated Monday that “more than a thousand people” were arrested in Chicago over the weekend, leading to an influx of detainees entering Cook County Jail after county officials have worked to winnow the jail’s population to fight the spread of Covid-19.

The population of the jail decreased from nearly 6,000 to just over 4,000 detainees from mid-March to mid-May, and Dart has handed down a series of policies aiming to keep people spaced apart. Some of those policies were ordered by a federal judge in response to an ongoing lawsuit, which Dart said Monday was “really outrageously unnecessary and unhelpful.”

Related: Dart must step up efforts to fight coronavirus inside county jail, judge rules

Despite those efforts, Dart said Tuesday that he was confident the jail could handle a rush of new arrestees.

“For individuals committing violent acts, we will find space for you in the jail,” Dart said. “We will make sure there is a place available for them, and we will make sure they are safely separated from others.”

The sheriff’s office reported on Sunday that 29 detainees and 53 jail employees were positive for Covid-19, down from a peak of nearly 300 sick detainees in early April.



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