CHICAGO — Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration has reversed itself and won’t seek cash from cops as reimbursement of legal fees related to a lawsuit filed by members of Chicago’s SWAT team.
The move follows a WGN Investigates report Oct. 27 that revealed the city’s law department was seeking $185 each from 100 SWAT officers and threatening to turn them over to a collections agency if they didn’t pay.
“No comment,” was the only comment from a law department spokesperson who declined to explain the reason for the reversal.
WGN Investigates first reported in 2018 that the city’s SWAT officers were seeking to be paid for time they spent on-call and performing other functions. It led to a stand-off of sorts between SWAT and City Hall in which officers stopped answering their phones during their off-duty hours.
A lawsuit filed by the officers claimed the city was violating federal labor standards and Illinois wage laws by not paying them for time they spent working but were unpaid. A judge recently dismissed the case and said the city could recoup its legal costs. This led Mayor Lightfoot’s law department to send letters seeking $185 from each of the 100 current and former SWAT officers who signed-on to the case. The total bill came to nearly $19,000.
“It’s 100% vindictive,” longtime CPD SWAT operator Bob Bartlett said last week. “We were fighting for our labor rights in a city that’s a labor city and you guys are punishing us.”
Mayor Lightfoot denied knowing about the letters or the case last week.
“I haven’t read it so the lawyer in me tells me to actually read the judge’s order before I react to it,” Lightfoot said October 27.
However, her law department sent follow-up letters to the officers saying “the City will NOT be seeking recovery on the Bill of Costs” dated the same day, and just one day after WGN Investigates first contacted City Hall.