CITY HALL — Mayor Rahm Emanuel came to the defense of Chicago Police on Tuesday in response to a reported Department alert about officers being targeted by gangs in the wake of the Paul O'Neal shooting.
Emanuel called the threats to police officers "absolutely unacceptable."
The Sun-Times reported Monday that the Police Department put out an alert to officers alleging that three West Side gangs met last week to plot how to target and shoot cops following the O'Neal shooting.
Emanuel was having none of that Tuesday.
"These are men and women, our neighbors, who selflessly sacrifice for every one of us in the City of Chicago," Emanuel said to reporters at an unrelated event at UIC. "It is totally unacceptable that gangs are meeting and talking about targeting police officers."
In an earlier statement, Emanuel acknowledged the continuing dialogue on police reform in the city but said officers do an "incredibly dangerous job and [do] it well."
"We can have a reasonable conversation about the need for police accountability reform," he added, "but 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."
Dean Angelo Sr., president of the local Fraternal Order of Police union, said he welcomed the words of encouragement from the mayor.
"We are pleased that there is supportive language emanating from City Hall," Angelo said. "It would be nice to hear the same coming from some of the other elected city officials as well."
Outspoken South Side Rev. Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina Church went to Facebook to express his doubts over the story.
"I am very concerned by the front page of the Sun-Times claiming three gangs have come together to declare war on Chicago Police," Pfleger said. "This is the same Police Department that says the problem with the gangs in Chicago is there is NO STRUCTURE and 15-year-olds are running rogue. Now all of a sudden they are organized."
Pfleger said the reported alert "will make officers more aggressive and impulsive and sets the stage to even more stereotype all black youth as a threat."
Pfleger added that the police threats paled next to Monday's nine killings citywide, making it the most dangerous day since September.
Police Department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said the Department does not publicly distribute alerts to officers, but he granted that "an officer safety alert was issued by police districts over the weekend."
He called it "routine practice for bulletins to be disseminated" to officers "concerning any potential threats to police." He added that "to safeguard the integrity of operations, the Department does not comment on any specific security measures that may be implemented."
A Department source confirmed the alert, saying, "We've been looking out for that for a few days now." According to the source, the warning went out from police headquarters.
The source also reported there have been "a few" suspicious recent calls on the West Side where officers showed up and no one was there — no crime scene, no victims, nothing.
Officers in South Shore shot and killed O'Neal two weeks ago after an alleged car theft. Video of the incident was released by the Independent Police Review Authority Friday, sparking renewed protests on police accountability.
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