• Ben Szalinski
    MAY 03, 2024


    Mendoza’s message to fellow elected officials at police memorial: ‘Let them do their jobs’

    Comptroller Susana Mendoza speaks at the annual Illinois Police Officers Memorial at the Illinois Capitol on Thursday. [Ben Szalinski/The Daily Line] 

    Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza earned a standing ovation from Illinois police officers and their families on Thursday following a passionate speech at the annual Illinois Police Officers Memorial gathering at the State Capitol.  

    Thursday’s annual event honors Illinois police officers who died in the line of duty during the previous year and etches their names into the state’s memorial on the capitol grounds. This year’s ceremony honored Chicago Police Officers Andres Mauricio Vasquez Lasso and Areanah Preston. It also came just days after the Chicago Police Department (CPD) laid Officer Luis Huesca to rest following his murder last month.  

    Huesca’s funeral on Monday came with some politics behind the scenes. Huesca’s family asked Mendoza, Rep. Angie Guerrero-Cuellar (D-Chicago) and the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police to ask Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson to skip the funeral, believing he didn’t support police, according to the Sun-Times. Gov. JB Pritzker was previously asked by the family not to attend and quickly agreed, according to Mendoza’s spokesperson, but it took multiple attempts to convince Johnson not to attend.  

    Mendoza, the sister of a Chicago Police officer who was disabled in the line of duty after becoming sick with COVID-19, gave a passionate speech acknowledging how officers and their families often feel disrespected by the public and politicians.   

    “Too many times we’ve gathered here after an officer’s life has been robbed by a perfect monster fueled by the worst type of hate,” Mendoza said. “I’m disgusted by the vilification of our police force. This vilification of the very people who are serving and protecting us is putting each and every [officer] in danger.”  

    She went further, blasting those who show concern for people who murder police officers.   

    “It is wrong to show more concern for the cop killer than for the cop,” Mendoza said.   

    And she had a direct message for her fellow politicians.  

    “[Police officers] know in this day and age that it is the exception when they are respected, much less supported, by us, their elected officials,” Mendoza said. “What they need is for their elected officials, their command and the public to let them do their jobs.”   

    Chicago Police Supt. Larry Snelling declined an interview, with a spokesperson saying he preferred not to weigh into the still fresh situation. Snelling was in Springfield to present the state’s memorial plaques to the Lasso and Preston families.   

    Mendoza reflected on the work of police, telling the officers gathered she knows the stories the public doesn’t usually hear about: doing CPR on an already deceased victim to make the family feel better, buying lunch for a homeless person or letting a child sit in their car.   

    “They get shot at, stabbed, spit on, punched, cursed out and who is standing up for them?” Mendoza asked.   

    Pritzker said at an unrelated news conference on Monday that he always checks with the family of a deceased police officer before attending their funeral. In his remarks to the officers and their families on Thursday, Pritzker reflected on the loss he has suffered in his own life. Both of Pritzker’s parents died before he became an adult.   

    “I can’t know your unique pain, but I have known loss in my own life, the pain and emptiness that you feel can be overwhelming,” Pritzker said.   

    He sought to remind the officers that he recognizes their work.   

    “We stand with you, their families, their friends, their colleagues, and pledge to honor their sacrifices today and every day,” Pritzker said. “May the memory of the righteous be a blessing.”   

    Treasurer Mike Frerichs also expressed frustration with anti-police sentiment.   

    “Every year, whether it’s because someone had a heart attack in the line of duty, because some driver was careless and plowed into a state trooper because they weren’t paying attention, or because someone just had evil in their hearts and they sought out a police officer to unleash on, every year we come back,” Frerichs said.   

    Both Huesca and Preston were murdered outside their homes after returning home from work while still in uniform. Lasso was killed in an exchange of gunfire with a suspect.   

    In addition to Huesca, two other Illinois police officers have been killed in the line of duty this year and are set to be honored at next year’s memorial. These include Department of Corrections Officer Andrew Faught in a car crash while responding to a call and DeKalb County Sheriff’s Deputy Christina Musil, who was hit by a drunk driver while parked on the side of the road.   

    Frerichs reminded families that the Illinois Treasurer’s Office has a $2,500 scholarship available for the children of first responders.  

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