Lori Lightfoot
Chairman, Mayor’s Task Force on Police Accountability
City of Chicago

Favorite Music

Very eclectic, all time favorite is 1970’s rocker Todd Rundgren. Also loves jazz greats like Ella Fitzgerald (“will always remember seeing her at the Hollywood Bowl”).

Challenge

Shortly before Thanksgiving 2015, a judge ordered a video released that showed police shooting a black teenager 16 times. Chicago went into an uproar that shook the foundation of city government. Mayor Rahm Emanuel organized a seven-member task force to review the situation with 70 volunteers, and appointed Lori chairman. As she assumed her role, a civic outcry erupted as people took to the streets, with some voices denouncing Lori as a traitor to her race. Looking back, Lori says many were skeptical the task force would have the courage to talk about hard truths. As a result, she says, the task force urgently needed to find true north and establish its credibility.

Solution

She says there’s no detailed playbook until you’re in the middle of a crisis and realize what you’re dealing with. But what general principles did she learn? Define your mission, check in with yourself daily to ensure that your assumptions remain valid, and pivot as necessary, remembering the objective is to keep moving to the finish line. She says it would have been easy to underestimate the anger that existed among people of color—whether young kids or older professionals—in terms of their relationship with police. Between convening Dec 1, 2015 and issuing 126 recommendations in April 2016, she and her colleagues drank from a firehose of views and continually re-evaluated their data, perspectives, and proposals.

Specific Lessons for a Mayor

  1. You’ve got to step up and show leadership, not overpromise or underpromise. Convene a truly independent commission and don’t manage it as a political campaign; you will endure wave after wave of criticism until you deliver a clear and honest report.
  2. Don’t pander to the crowd; many who raise their voices have little to no information. Find out and master the facts yourself, educate the public about them. The task force conducted many open hearings, created a website, did extensive community outreach, held press conferences, spent time with editorial boards and news outlets, and constantly tried to separate fact from fiction and dispel urban myth. Either you are transparent, or the void will be filled by disinformation.

Lori’s Personal Background

From small town Ohio, she went to the University of Michigan (’84) and the University of Chicago law school, was a federal prosecutor in the US Attorney’s Office in Chicago, then worked in Mayor Richard Daley’s Office of Professional Standards, a civilian oversight division within the police department.

Sports

Still devoted to following her high school football team, and bleeds maize and blue for all University of Michigan sports.

Contact Lori!

llightfoot@mayerbrown.com

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