CHICAGO (CBS) — Mayor Rahm Emanuel neither praised nor criticized two police officers seen kneeling with a community activist in an Instagram picture.
The mayor said he’s not taking sides on the image of two African-American police officers taking a knee inside the Gresham District station, flanking community activist Aleta Clark, all three holding their fists in the air.
CBS 2’s Jim Williams reports that Emanuel is walking a thin line between a reprimand for the officers and support for social justice.
Clark posted the picture of the officers kneeling on Instagram. She said she walked into the Gresham District police station, asking the officers if they were against police brutality and racism, and if they stood with former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who started the kneeling movement last year. Both officers reportedly said yes, and then took a knee with Clark.
“I’m proud of them for doing it, because before they put on that uniform, they got that skin color God gave to them as a gift,” said Antonio Coye, who supports the kneeling officers.
The department has said the officers have been reprimanded for violating a policy prohibiting police from engaging “in any type of political activity” while in uniform.
Emanuel said the good news is Clark trusted the officers enough to ask them to join her in protesting injustice.
“We encourage community policing in all its aspects of that trust. We also have a principle about not taking, in any way, showing favoritism of political views,” he said.
In a letter to the officers, Father Michael Pfleger wrote: “…you probably did more for community policing and helping rebuild the bridge between community and law enforcement than 100 CAPS meetings.”
While supporting expressions of social justice in some situations, the mayor drew a distinction between football players and cops on the job. “There’s a difference between an athlete wearing their uniform and a police officer, paid by the public, who’s wearing their’s.”
Emanuel said he will not second guess what the officers should have done.
According to police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi, the officers face a formal reprimand, which includes a letter in their files, and have to take a refresher course on police policy. Guglielmi added then when a Donald Trump campaign hat was found in a squad car last year, officers faced the same discipline.