As protests across Chicago devolved into chaos last week and residents started to loot nearby stores, police officers were making popcorn and drinking coffee while “lounging” inside Congressman Bobby Rush’s office, officials said in a stunning news conference on Thursday.
Speaking alongside Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Rush said at least 13 Chicago Police officers were loitering inside his South Side campaign office in the early hours of June 1 and were “relaxing” while nearby stores were being looted and burned, and their fellow officers were clashing with demonstrators.
“They even had the unmitigated gall to 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 (D-IL) said.
The incident, which Rush and Lightfoot said was captured on CCTV, showed the officers—and at least three supervisors—with feet up on desks. One officer “was asleep on my couch” while another “was on his cellphone,” Rush said.
“They were in a mode of relaxation and did not care about what was happening. They did not care. They absolutely did not care,” Rush added.
Rush’s office is located in a strip mall that had been looted for several hours that night. While Lightfoot clarified that the officers were responding to a call that the campaign office had been broken into and burglarized, Rush said that when he finally got around to viewing the CCTV—he was horrified to see it filled with cops.
The shocking news comes amid scrutiny of Chicago cops, who have been accused of using excessive force during protests and riots in the wake of George Floyd’s death. The Cook County state’s attorney’s office and the FBI are reviewing allegations that one Chicago officer pulled a woman from a car by her hair before placing a knee on her neck—a move similar to how Floyd died at the hands of police in Minneapolis.
Lightfoot, at times visibly angry and tearful during the Thursday press conference, said the officers “demonstrated a total disregard for their colleagues [and] for the badge” and should be held accountable. She said she and her team were “enraged” when they learned of the incident. None of the 13 officers has been identified, and she urged them to come forward before investigators find them.
Calling it a “personal embarrassment,” Lightfoot offered an apology on behalf of the city, saying the officers had “abandoned” their obligations to keep the city safe. She said she would push for the state to pass a law requiring police officers to be licensed.
“We should all be disgusted, and we should all feel hurt and betrayed in this moment, of all moments,” Lightfoot said, adding that the officers were inside Rush’s office, located in a shopping plaza that had been looted for about “four to five hours.”
Chicago Police Supt. David Brown also condemned the officers’ actions, stating that he planned to hold them accountable and “uphold the nobility of this profession.”
“If you sleep during a riot, what do you do during a regular shift when there is no riot?” Brown asked, before apologizing on behalf of the police department.
Rush, the co-founder of the Illinois Black Panther Party, has been a member of Congress since 1993. The Democratic lawmaker has had a tense relationship with Lightfoot in the past, after Rush falsely accused her of being the Fraternal Order of Police’s preferred candidate in 2019.
While he was campaigning for a Cook County Board president last year, Rush said those who vote for Lightfoot would have “the blood of the next young black man or black woman who is killed by the police” on their hands. Seemingly alluding to their history on Thursday, Lightfoot said that, despite their differences, she would work together with Rush against misconduct during a historical period of reckoning for the police.
“We haven’t always agreed on every issue but today, we are in total alignment in our righteous anger and our steadfast determination, and I want to make sure that’s very clear,” Lightfoot said. “What I know of Congressman Rush is this—he has committed his life to calling out and fighting against injustice and this presents exactly one of those moments.”
Editor’s note: This headline has been updated to reflect that the police officers are accused of loitering inside Congressman Bobby Rush’s office after responding to a call there. They were not accused of burglarizing the office.