Chicago, IL – The newly-elected mayor of Chicago has hired a private company to manage her security instead of leaving her protection detail up to the Chicago Police Department, who have always safeguarded the city’s mayor in the past.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s security detail will be headed by retired Deputy U.S. Marshal James Smith, a managing partner at Silver Star Protection Group, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Smith was a Cook County corrections officer before he joined the federal agency. He retired from the U.S. Marshals Service after 26 years.
The Chicago Sun Times reported that an aide to the mayor said that Lightfoot’s detail would be made up of “four or five” retired law enforcement officials from agencies other than Chicago PD.
The aide said that no Chicago police jobs were being eliminated as a result of the switch.
It was unclear how the new security detail was being paid, the Chicago Tribune reported.
When asked if there was an increased threat to the mayor, who is the city’s first black, lesbian top official, the aide told the Chicago Sun Times, “Just think about it. It’s a very dangerous time in our country.”
There has been speculation that Lightfoot would not feel safe being protected solely by the Chicago police after she co-chaired the Task Force on Police Accountability that was created in the wake of Laquan McDonald shooting in 2014.
The task force’s vicious and highly critical report on the Chicago police was released before the U.S. Department of Justice went after the department for a “pattern and practice” of police civil-rights violations, the Chicago Sun Times reported.
The Chicago Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) was very unhappy with the new mayor’s decision to switch up the way her security detail has traditionally been handled.
“For as long as anyone can remember, Chicago Police have provided the security for the Mayor of this City. They have done an outstanding job, no matter who was the Mayor,” FOP President Kevin Graham told the Chicago Sun Times in an email.
“Those jobs are done by Chicago Police Officers and we at the FOP intend to keep it that way,” Graham said.
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson refused to comment on the new mayor’s security decisions, the Chicago Sun Times reported.
“We don’t really comment on executive protection, but at the end of the day the mayor has to be comfortable with her detail,” Superintendent Johnson said. “This is her police department now.”
The superintendent said he does not believe Lightfoot’s decision reflected a lack of confidence in the Chicago police force.
Other critics have expressed concern that the man Lightfoot chose to run her security is married to a corporate lobbyist with clients who have interests in the city.
Smith’s wife is Margaret Houlihan-Smith, who was formerly the managing director of corporate and government affairs for United.
City records indicated that Houlihan-Smith now lobbies Chicago on behalf of United and AT&T, the Chicago Tribune reported.
The mayor’s spokeswoman, Anel Ruiz, confirmed that Smith was heading up security for Lightfoot but refused to comment on whether it was appropriate to hire the spouse of a lobbyist.
Lightfoot ran her campaign on a pledge to terminate political insiders’ influence at City Hall, according to the Chicago Tribune.
City lobbying records indicated that Houlihan-Smith has lobbied city alderman on behalf of United as recently as this year.
Additionally, Smith’s wife has long been considered a high-level influencer in Chicago.
In 2016, she and Smith accompanied former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and a large group of his campaign donors on a trip to Rome, the Chicago Tribune reported.
The group flew United for their junket to see Archbishop Blase Cupich elevated to cardinal at the Vatican.
Houlihan-Smith also joined United officials for the city council’s probe of the 2017 incident when a United airlines passenger was dragged from a plane by Chicago aviation police officers.