Top mayoral adviser on reducing violence quits in what City Hall calls an ‘amicable departure’Rachel Hintonon November 24, 2021 at 11:51 pm

Norman Kerr, Director of Violence Reduction, speaks at a news conference in August. | Brian Rich/Sun-Times file

A mayoral spokesman did not respond to a question about why Norman Kerr resigned. But according to a City Hall statement, Mayor Lori Lightfoot is “incredibly grateful” to Kerr for his “steadfast leadership and commitment to reducing violence in our city, both during his time with the City, and beyond.”

Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s violence reduction czar resigned Wednesday, becoming the mayor’s second top advisor on fighting crime to leave after a relatively short time.

A City Hall spokesman called Norman Kerr’s departure “amicable.”

Kerr, the former director of the anti-violence group once known as CeaseFire, was tapped in 2019 to become the director of violence reduction in the city’s office of public safety.

He also recently served as Lightfoot’s acting deputy mayor for public safety. But it’s unclear if he had been officially named deputy director at the time of his resignation.

A mayoral spokesman did not respond to a question about whether or not Lightfoot asked for Kerr’s resignation.

But the mayor is “incredibly grateful” to Kerr for his “steadfast leadership and commitment to reducing violence in our city, both during his time with the City, and beyond,” according to a City Hall statement.

“The work of the Office of Violence Prevention continues as part of the Community Safety Coordination Center,” the mayoral spokesperson said. “Norm has continued to be a close partner of the Mayor’s Office since his amicable departure, and Mayor Lightfoot wishes him all the best as he expands his impact beyond Chicago.”

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times file
Mayor Lori Lightfoot answers questions from the media during a news conference on Monday.

It was not immediately clear why Kerr left. The mayor’s spokesman did not respond to questions, and Kerr could not be reached to explain.

Before joining Lightfoot’s administration, Kerr spent over a decade working with Cure Violence, the group once known as CeaseFire.

At City Hall, he largely filled the role previously held by Susan Lee, who was appointed deputy mayor for public safety in June 2019 but left the job in October of 2020.

Lee came from the not-for-profit Safe Chicago Network at Creating Real Economic Destiny founded by former U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Apple founder Steve Jobs.

Lee’s mission was to shift Chicago away from a “law-enforcement driven solution” to gang violence, but City Council members complained she failed to answer their questions during meetings. A group of alderpersons had planned to write a letter to Lightfoot demanding she fire Lee.

At the time of Lee’s exit, Lightfoot praised her as an “invaluable member of my senior leadership team” who has helped to lead “public safety and violence reduction efforts.”

Kerr’s unexplained departure comes as the city’s crime problem shows signs of worsening.

Gun violence has been on the rise in the city over the past year, with 796 people shot and killed so far this year, according to records from the Chicago Sun-Times.

Last week, the mayor’s Council floor said that Lightfoot should only give Police Supt. David Brown a few months more to get a handle on Chicago’s “crime pandemic.”

And if he can’t, she should fire him and his leadership team, Ald. George Cardenas (12th) told the Chicago Sun-Times.

“I am not at all … happy with CPD and their leadership,” Cardenas said. “They need to step up in a big way and stop this crime pandemic themselves. They need to find a way to recruit more people. That’s on them. The mayor can only do so much. That’s on that leadership.”

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