Residents skeptical of police superintendent selection process

About 150 people attended a session held by the Chicago Urban League at Kennedy-King College on Jan. 12, 2016 to address the Chicago Police Board during the superintendent selection process. Community members called on the CPB for more community involvement and awareness, an elected board, an end to corruption, and, mentioned by many, an understanding of racism and white supremacy.  (Michelle Kanaar / City Bureau)About 150 people attended a session held by the Chicago Urban League at Kennedy-King College on Jan. 12, 2016 to address the Chicago Police Board during the superintendent selection process. Community members called on the CPB for more community involvement and awareness, an elected board, an end to corruption, and, mentioned by many, an understanding of racism and white supremacy. (Michelle Kanaar / City Bureau)
Lisa Daniels called for a change in the culture and structure of the Chicago Police Department while addressing  the Chicago Police Board during a session on the superintendent selection process held at Kennedy-King College on Jan. 12, 2016. Daniels lost her son, Darren B. Easterling, 25, to Chicago violence. (Michelle Kanaar / City Bureau)

Lisa Daniels called for a change in the culture and structure of the Chicago Police Department while addressing the Chicago Police Board during a session on the superintendent selection process held at Kennedy-King College on Jan. 12, 2016. Daniels lost her son, Darren B. Easterling, 25, to Chicago violence. (Michelle Kanaar / City Bureau)

Also want African-American as McCarthy’s replacement

By La Risa Lynch
The Chicago Police Board got an earful from residents Tuesday night as they sought public input in the selection process for Chicago’s next top cop. But many who packed an Englewood community college auditorium expressed skepticism about the board’s impartiality to pick a candidate without interference from the mayor.

Darryl Smith, a 46 year Englewood resident, was among them. He along with others derided Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s handpicked board members as puppets out to do his bidding.

“The city has lost faith in our mayor and this board has been handpicked by the mayor. So where is our faith in this board?” asked the president of the Englewood Political Taskforce. “We need the board to ensure us that we have a trustworthy board that is fair and partial in the selection of this superintendent.”

The packed meeting held at Kennedy-King College was a first for the city in seeking such input. Usually the process to vet and appoint a superintendent stays between the police board and Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office.

The job’s predecessor, Garry McCarthy, was forced out over the department’s handling of the videotape shooting death of a Black teenager by a white police officer. But Emanuel hasn’t been unscathed by Laquan McDonald’s death. Calls for his resignation persist two months after the dashcam video of the shooting became public. Even at Tuesday’s meeting residents still called for Emanuel’s ouster along with Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez for not filing charges against the officer Jason Van Dyke for 13 months.

The meeting opened simply enough with the question of what attributes residents would like to see in the next superintendent. It was a question that burdened 57-year old Vaughn Banks. The Englewood resident has two sons ages 20 and 23, whom he fears could be the next victim of police violence. He said the next police chief should focus on improving officer training.

About 150 people attended a session held by the Chicago Urban League at Kennedy-King College on Jan. 12, 2016 to address the Chicago Police Board concerning nominations for the next Chicago Police Department superintendent. (Michelle Kanaar / City Bureau)

About 150 people attended a session held by the Chicago Urban League at Kennedy-King College on Jan. 12, 2016 to address the Chicago Police Board concerning nominations for the next Chicago Police Department superintendent. (Michelle Kanaar / City Bureau)

“I really don’t know much about choosing s police superintendent,” Banks, who works as a nursing assistant. “But as far as the police department and their training, something has to be done. Instead of teaching them to shoot to kill, maybe shoot to maim. It is too much of ‘We thought they had a gun, so we killed them.’ It’s been too much of that, and I am tired of hearing that on TV.”

Besides better trained offers, especially in dealing with the mentally ill, residents also wanted someone who supports restorative justice programs, de-escalation techniques and to be accountable to the community and independent of the mayor. But a resounding qualifier residents demanded is that the next superintendent to be Black.

Earl Walker, a member of Community Renewal Society, a religious advocacy group, said it should be a no brainer that the next police chief be Black. The West Chicago Lawn resident said Blacks make up the largest electorate in the city.

“There is no real representation of that when it comes to the klan ??I mean the FOP,” Walker quipped likening the Ku Klux Klan to the local Fraternal Order of Police chapter. “Just because you are sitting down and meeting with Rahm Emanuel, we have no faith that you are going to do the right thing or give him the right representation. You are going to give him a suit. You are going to give him somebody with a master’s degree and have no connections to the community.”

Richard Wooten, a former Chicago police officer, agreed that that job should be filled by someone who reflects the city’s demographics and come from an urban environment that understand the nuances of policing in a big city like Chicago.

“What we want in our superintendent is someone who has urban policing experience,” said Wooten, a member of a newly formed Independent Retired Public Safety Officers of Chicago. “The city of Chicago is no joke. In 2016 right now we are sitting on 110 shootings [and] over 17 people killed. We don’t have time to train anybody to be the superintendent of the city of Chicago.”

At times the two and half hour meeting was boisterous and contentious. At one point the audience counted to 16, the number of times that McDonald was shot by officer Van dyke. Some questioned whether residents’ concerns will be truly considered at all.

They raised concerns that not enough time was allotted to get community input by the January 15 application deadline. Police Board chair Lori Lightfoot said the agency wanted feedback before interviewing candidates began and that it will continue to gather community input way after the deadline.

The police board began its search in December for McCarthy’s replacement and has reached out to ranks and file

About 150 people attended a session held by the Chicago Urban League at Kennedy-King College on Jan. 12, 2016 to address the Chicago Police Board concerning nominations for the next Chicago Police Department superintendent. (Michelle Kanaar / City Bureau)

About 150 people attended a session held by the Chicago Urban League at Kennedy-King College on Jan. 12, 2016 to address the Chicago Police Board concerning nominations for the next Chicago Police Department superintendent. (Michelle Kanaar / City Bureau)

members within the department for candidates as well as to national police organizations. The board will narrow down candidates to three and present the finalists to the mayor no later than February.

“The comments coming from you are going to be integrated into the process we use to interview candidates,” Lightfoot told the audience.

Police board member Rev. Michael Eaddy tried to ebb concerns that the meeting as a farce.

“We did not come to tell you what we wanted to do,” said Eaddy, pastor of People’s Church of God In Christ. “We’re here to hear from you, and it is being presumed that many of the things that you are saying have never been a part of our discussion. But much of what you have said has been a part of our discussions.”

Alderman Willie B. Cochran (20th) echoed audience’s concerns that the next cop should be Black and also meet residents before being appointed to the position. But Cochran said he is under no illusion that whoever fills the role will not have an easy task because of the “distrust towards police and police leadership and the administration.”

“The next superintendent should understand that the harm that has been suffered in Chicago and across the country is a real harm deliberately imposed upon [the Black community] through unjust punishments, unequal treatment, poor educational opportunities [and] lack of employment opportunities…,” the alderman said.

“If there is going to be leadership over the agency that polices our community it should be full of ?? not only a Black superintendent, but Black officers, Black supervisors, Black detectives, Black brass. If that was the case we would not be having the problems we are having now,” he added.

When pressed after the meeting as to whether to next superintendent should be Black, Lightfoot said she understood residents’ concerns but noted the board is charged with finding the most qualified for the job.

“I don’t prejudge that,” she said. “Most important is that we get somebody who has a range of skills, proven track record of success and a plan now and a plan for the future. That person can be African-American, Latino, Asian … [but] we got to have someone who can serve all parts of Chicago.”

This report was published in collaboration with City Bureau, a Chicago-based journalism lab. 

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