(Tribune) Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s new security chief co-authored a report two years ago suggesting that the solution to Chicago’s crime problem on the city’s South and West sides was this: Bring in the National Guard.
Former U.S. Marshal James Smith, the private security contractor whom Lightfoot picked to head her security detail, wrote the eight-page report in 2017 with former Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Milan.
Milan recalled Wednesday that the two were trying to find a solution for the spiraling violence in certain Chicago neighborhoods but said that the proposal never came to pass.
He said that they discussed the idea with a member of President Donald Trump’s administration and with officials in former Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration but that officials thought it was “too extreme.”
The proposal, which was first publicized in news reports in 2017, called for deploying 4,000 to 8,000 National Guard troops to parts of the South and West sides. Many street and alley entrances and exits to neighborhoods such as Englewood were to be blocked off, with troops posted at the unblocked streets from 7 p.m. to 4 a.m. to stand watch, according to the report.
Later Wednesday, Milan said the proposal to bring in the National Guard “was mostly my idea, not Jim’s.”
“(Smith) mostly wanted to involve the U.S. Marshals and other agencies,” Milan said.
While bringing in the military to patrol minority neighborhoods likely would draw a strong backlash from people who already believe police mistreat residents in those communities, Milan said he and Smith just want residents there to be as safe as Chicagoans living elsewhere.
“It’s the optics of it, this image of tanks rolling down State Street, which isn’t at all what we have in mind,” Milan said.
He contended that city officials in the past appeared to tolerate high crime in predominantly minority neighborhoods that they wouldn’t have allowed in the city’s white communities.
“We just know that certain things that would never be tolerated for even one weekend in Beverly or in Edison Park, we see week after week in certain Chicago neighborhoods, simply because the people who live there are black and they’re low income, and it isn’t right.”
Milan said he didn’t know if Smith had mentioned that he’d co-authored the report to Lightfoot before or since he was named her new security chief. Lightfoot spokeswoman Anel Ruiz did not respond to questions about the report.
The idea of bringing in the National Guard to deal with Chicago violence is popular in certain conservative political circles, and Trump tweeted in 2017 that he would “send in the Feds!” if the violence didn’t stop. That her security chief co-authored a report with such a controversial idea is an awkward look for Lightfoot, who has been accused by some left-wing activists of being too close to police even though she repeatedly challenged Emanuel on police reform issues.
Asked Wednesday about hiring an outsider to run the team rather than sticking solely with Chicago police officers to guard her, Lightfoot called the situation “a tempest in a teapot.”
“This is a gentleman who guarded Supreme Court justices, high-ranking federal officials who have been under threat,” Lightfoot said. “I have total confidence in him to be able to do the job (and) total confidence in the CPD officers, many of whom have been with me now for six weeks-plus. I want to make sure they are supported, he is supported.”
Smith apparently will do the work despite city personnel rules that say members of the detail can’t have outside employment themselves and their spouses can’t do business with the city or have a stake in an entity seeking to do business with the city.
Smith is a managing partner at Silver Star Protection Group. His wife, Margaret Houlihan Smith, is a former United Airlines official and registered City Hall lobbyist representing United and AT&T, according to city lobbying records.
Ruiz did not respond Wednesday to questions about whether Smith would stay on with Silver Star Protection.
Ruiz also did not respond to questions about whether Houlihan Smith’s lobbying runs afoul of the rule prohibiting work with the city for a security detail member’s spouse.
Reform for Illinois policy director Alisa Kaplan said based on the personnel policy, Smith should extract himself from Silver Star Protection in order to stay with Lightfoot’s security detail.
Lobbying does not constitute “city business” under the city personnel code, Kaplan said, so Houlihan Smith wouldn’t need to give that up. “That’s more a matter of perception, and it’s up to them how much the perception matters to them,” Kaplan said.
Article Org: chicagotribune.com