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Mayor ‘out of control,’ hero says

Police ranks ‘thousands’ short, dispatcher tells Scottsdale

By Tim Hadac

It’s not every day that a City worker has the courage to attend a public meeting and call a mayor “out of control.”

But Keith A. Thornton Jr. did exactly that earlier this week on the Southwest Side.

A 911 dispatcher hailed as a hero by many last August for his actions that helped police apprehend suspects charged in the shooting of CPD Officers Ella French and Carlos A. Yanez Jr., Thornton has gotten vocal in recent months with his criticisms of Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CPD Superintendent David Brown over police staffing and deployment.

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OEMC dispatcher Keith A. Thornton Jr. was hailed as a hero by many for his cool-headed actions in helping direct a police response in the minutes after the August 2021 shooting of CPD Officers Ella French and Carlos Yanez Jr. near 63rd and Bell. In recent months he has emerged as a vocal critic of the Lightfoot Administration’s approach to crime prevention in the city. On Monday night, he was the special guest of the Scottsdale Neighborhood Watch. –Supplied photo

“The mayor is out of control, which is a big, big, big issue,” Thornton said. “If the mayor would simply allow the individuals who are put in the positions that she put them, to do their jobs—such as the chief of police, even the Fire Department commissioner…we’d be in a better situation. So [the problem] starts with politicians.”

Thornton, a Northwest Sider, was the invited guest of the Scottsdale Neighborhood Watch and spoke at its February meeting, held Monday night via Facebook. About 50 people attended the online event.

At the outset, Thornton made it clear that his opinions are entirely his own and his appearance before the SNW should not in any way be construed as representing the views or positions of his employers. SNW President Jason Huff, also a City of Chicago employee, said the same about himself.

At the request of Huff, Thornton briefly walked the audience through the basics of what happens when a person calls 911. But then he shifted to his ongoing frustration as a dispatcher when there are more calls for emergency services than there are police in the field to handle them.

“We don’t have the officers out there, which is a big reason why I stepped out of my position and I said, ‘As a citizen within the city, this is not right.’” Thornton said. “We are losing officers in droves. We are losing officers district by district by district on a daily basis, and this is not just [due to] retirements, even though that’s in the hundreds. We’re losing officers because they’re not backed up, they have poor leadership and management, and they don’t want to work here anymore. So they’re leaving. They’re going to the suburbs. They’re going out of state.

“We’re supposed to have 13,500 officers within the City of Chicago, but now we’re way below that…in terms of thousands…we don’t have the amount of officers we need on the streets to protect the citizens of the Chicago, which is my big issue: public safety.”

He also accused the Lightfoot Administration of lying about crime.

“I’m a Christian, so I like to tell the truth,” he said. “Not everything [the public is] receiving is the truth.” He claimed police brass is underreporting crime by as much as 10%.

“There’s different things that are done—I won’t go much more into that—but a lot of it is nonsense,” Thornton said. “I don’t like any of it, but a lot of things aren’t told to the public in the most truthful way. Some of the things are misleading, and there’s a lot more going on in our neighborhoods than what they give to us [via] the news media, in CAPS meetings and all the rest of the stuff.”

A Greater Southwest News-Herald request for reaction from the Lightfoot Administration was not returned by deadline.

Thornton also claimed most aldermen are deficient when it comes to supporting public safety employees. On the Southwest Side, he singled out 23rd Ward Ald. Silvana Tabares and 15th Ward Ald. Raymond Lopez as pro-public safety exceptions. He also briefly criticized Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx for being soft on crime.

“We can’t just be building all these facilities and parks and all these crazy different things that are wonderful for the communities, but [then] a 2-year-old girl or a baby gets shot and killed right in front of the park,” he said of ongoing violence in the city. “It makes no sense.”

Thornton also cited fatigue among frontline police officers who typically work under highly stressful conditions that come with a department that is chronically short staffed, and in which officers are pushed into working long overtime hours and having their days off cancelled.

He said “99.9%” of those who work in public safety “are wonderful people” and citizens—perhaps especially young people—need to understand that.

He also agreed with a statement that more primary and secondary crime prevention services are needed, such as domestic violence services, early intervention to help young people make better choices in life, and mental health clinics to better address mental illness. One criticism of Lightfoot—as well as her predecessors—was that they drained mental health funding and then shuttered clinics across the city.

Thornton also said change in the city needs to come from the bottom up, and he praised the Scottsdale Neighborhood Watch as the type of group every community should have.

Thornton is an announced candidate for a state representative position in a Northwest Side district, partly because he has said that too many lawmakers in Springfield are hostile to police and other first responders.

1 Comment

  1. Bob Stanek on February 11, 2022 at 10:07 am

    Tabares or Lopez for mayor.



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