Officer Ella French lost her life in service to the city of Chicago. After she was shot to death, one of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s top police officials skipped a “sacred” ritual for fallen police officers, saying simply, “We don’t have 20 minutes for this s***.”
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, First Deputy Police Superintendant Eric Carter — the Chicago Police Department’s second-in-command — is in trouble with the rank-and-file after he refused to allow the traditional playing of bagpipes for French outside the medical examiner’s office.
French was fatally shot during a traffic stop Saturday, CNN reported. She was fired upon after stopping a vehicle with three occupants at roughly 9 p.m.
Two officers were hit as they returned fire; one of the attackers also suffered a wound and was taken to the hospital. French, 29, died of her injuries at the University of Chicago Medical Center.
“Officer French died in service to our great city,” said Philip Cline, executive director of the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation. “A small part of every one of us died when we lost Ella, not just members of the police department, but every Chicagoan.”
“We did not lose just an exceptional police officer; we lost a remarkable person. One with courage and compassion, one who made a positive difference every day of her life.”
Police Officer Ella French
End of Watch: August 7, 2021
We will #NeverForget the true bravery she exemplified as she laid her life down to protect others.
Please hold her family, loved ones and fellow Chicago Police officers in your thoughts as we grieve the loss of this hero. pic.twitter.com/kEUlNTv0Z4
— Chicago Police (@Chicago_Police) August 8, 2021
Carter wasn’t quite as delicate with his messaging, however.
According to the Sun-Times, officers had gathered at the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office expecting to see the Emerald Society — an Irish-American fraternal organization comprised of first responders — playing bagpipes before French was taken into the office by ambulance.
“We don’t have 20 minutes for this s***,” Carter was heard saying on a recording.
“We’re not waiting on the bagpipes. Go ahead and get the vehicle inside,” he said.
“Take it all the way inside. Do not stop.”
Former Chicago Police Superintendant Garry McCarthy said the Emerald Society ritual is “sacred” and called Carter’s decision “inexcusable.”
“When Cliff Lewis got killed and his fiancée came to the hospital, I took her into another room and I sat her down and explained to her what had occurred. And she completely lost it. When I say lost it, she was basically rolling around on the floor,” McCarthy said.
“You know what I did? I was on the ER floor of Christ Hospital rolling around with her trying to hold onto her and comfort her. The sensitivity of an officer being killed. The handling of the family. The handling of the body. It’s kind of sacred.”
A spokesman for the police superintendent emailed about whether the superintendent agreed with how Carter handled the situation, said, “No comment beyond reminding you of what an emotionally difficult and painful night that was — and continues to be — for everyone involved.”
This is true — except everyone at the top seems to have acted badly.
Lightfoot is also under fire after she visited the hospital floor where French’s wounded partner was being treated despite the officer’s father — a former Chicago police officer himself — saying he didn’t want the mayor present.
After she ignored his wishes and repeated warnings, the wounded officer’s father confronted Lightfoot angrily; when the mayor walked into the hallway, officers who had gathered to pray for the wounded cops turned their backs on her.
When asked about the scene at the hospital during a news briefing on Wednesday, Lightfoot told the assembled media that their reporting on her had been “sickening” and that the media were in a “race to the bottom,” according to Fox News.
“So this is a larger question than what may have happened with 10 or 15 officers on Saturday night,” she said. “It’s why do we think it is OK for people to engage in such nasty, vicious talk, orally or worse, on social media, and then have it repeated by media as if it is fact and true.
“I think our media plays a very important role in our democracy, but you lose me, you lose me when it’s a race to the bottom and it’s all about the fight and it’s all about the conflict.
“I’ve got to tell you, some of the reporting I’ve seen this week is just sickening. We all need to ask ourselves what we can do better to show our people everywhere that we have the capacity to be human beings again.”
Lightfoot also hit back at the reports about Carter’s order to ignore the bagpipe salute. “The reporting on that is just not true,” she said. “It’s not true.”
However, she also said on Wednesday that “I support what [Carter] did,” according to the Sun-Times.
“There was no official honor guard that night. There was, let me choose my words carefully, [a] well-meaning but not well-organized group that wanted to hijack the procession. Which would have meant that the family would have been delayed exponentially in getting to the morgue,” the mayor said.
“Given the new restrictions that the new coroner has put in place, that wouldn’t have been fair to them. …
“So, a call was made under those circumstances to focus on the family. Eric Carter made the right call. I support what he did. And I’m horrified that, in this moment, people are trying to savage him for whatever agenda or purpose.”
You mightn’t be surprised to learn there were no new restrictions put on processions, the medical examiner’s office told the Sun-Times.
“Give me a break,” Lightfoot said at one point during the news conference. “What else are you going to mine from the bottom of the chum barrel? Come on. You’re better than that. You’re better than that. You’re better than that.”
No, mayor, both you and your top police officials should be better than that. You’ve broken trust with the law enforcement officers who try to keep your troubled city safe.
When your top brass can’t even spare 20 minutes for a “sacred” ritual and you defend that decision based on nonexistent restrictions from the coroner, it’s pretty clear why.