Mayor Emanuel Responds To Claims That Gangs Would Target Police

By Stephen Gossett in News on Aug 9, 2016 8:29PM

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Rahm Emanuel / Getty Images / Photo: Chip Somodevilla

Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Tuesday issued a comment about an inter-department alert that was reportedly circulated within the Chicago Police Department warning officers of potential ambush from West Side gang members. While a conversation about police accountability reform can be “reasonable,” he said in a statement, “the idea that a bunch of gang members would threaten violence against the men and women every Chicagoan relies on for their own safety is absolutely unacceptable.”

News of the reported alert surfaced on Monday after the Sun Times published a controversial article that reported leaders of the Vice Lords, Black Disciples and Four Corner Hustlers met on Thursday to talk about the idea of targeting officers.

The piece was met with a fair bit of criticism from some corners of the media.

Causing further controversy, police union president Dean Angelo was quoted as saying “rhetoric” from the attorney of Paul O’Neal’s family and statements by Sharon Fairley, the leader of Chicago’s police accountability board, the Independent Police Review Authority, were responsible for the threats. The unarmed O'Neal, 18, was fatally shot in the back by a police officer after a police pursuit on July 29.

"We had inflammatory and false rhetoric coming from [attorney Michael Oppenheimer] and statements that weren’t true,” Angelo said, according to the Sun Times. “You also have a lead investigator in police-involved deaths talking about how shocking and disturbing this is.”

When asked for comment, a Chicago police spokeswoman provided the following statement to Chicagoist:

“It is routine practice for officer safety alerts to be disseminated by Districts and CPIC concerning any potential threats to police but to safeguard the integrity of operations, the department does not comment on any specific security measures that may be implemented.”

The spokeswoman confirmed that no officers had been targeted by West Side gang members on Monday or Tuesday afternoon.

Emanuel's full statement is indicative of a mayor struggling to balance competing criticisms—some from a police union that frequently finds him unsupportive, and some from activist circles who condemn his handling of the Laquan McDonald and Paul O'Neal shootings, among other grievances. He's created a tightrope for himself, to be sure. By giving credence to Angelo's controversial claims, he definitely takes a precarious step.

Chicagoist has reached out to the Fraternal Order of Police and the IPRA for comment and will update this post as necessary.