The Crusader Newspaper Group

First meeting on police superintendent poorly attended

Residents gather at Trinity United Methodist Church to give input on selection of city’s next top cop

Crusader Staff Report

The Chicago Police Board on Monday, December 9, held its first listening community town hall meeting on the selection of a new police superintendent, but the gathering at Trinity United Church of Christ in Washington Heights was poorly attended.

Fewer than 50 people attended the meeting at Trinity United, which seats 2,200 people in its sanctuary. The police board sent notices about two weeks before the event, but questions remain whether the board should have done more to inform the community about the meeting.

The attendance was much lower than the community meetings that were held before Eddie Johnson was chosen as superintendent in 2016. Residents on the South Side packed those meetings after the video of Officer Jason Van Dyke shooting Laquan McDonald 16 times touched off weeks of protests against the Chicago Police Department and City Hall.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel fired Johnson’s predecessor, Garry McCarthy.

BLACK POLICE SUPERINTENDENTLast year, Emanuel and Johnson entered a consent decree to implement reforms after a scathing U.S. Justice Department report concluded that the nation’s second largest police force engaged in a “pattern of practice” of harassing Blacks and minorities in low-income neighborhoods.

Ghian Foreman, president of the Chicago Police Board, said “one of the things we, the board, are hoping to find is candidates who see the consent decree as an opportunity, not a punishment.”

Mayor Lori Lightfoot fired Johnson on November 25, months before he was scheduled to retire after 31 years on the force, including three as the city’s top cop. Lightfoot, citing a city inspector general report and video, accused Johnson of intentionally misleading her about an incident in October where officers first believed Johnson was asleep in a vehicle at Aberdeen and West 34th Place.

It was the last of many problems Johnson experienced as superintendent. Earlier this year, another inspector general report said Johnson viewed the video of the McDonald shooting while in a room with a group of officers but said nothing.

At the community listening meeting at Trinity United Monday, residents were given just 90 seconds to provide their input. Some told members of the Chicago Police Board that they wanted the next superintendent to be an “outsider” who was not beholden to the mayor or political ties at City Hall.

“Throw the old water out, and let’s start a new day.

The superintendent has to come up through the ranks,” said Gladys Drew Anderson, who lives in Hyde Park. “Sergeant, first one on the scene; know the street, know the district.”

Robert Beakman, a pastor, said the next superintendent should “be a change agent. I’d like to see a superintendent that has heart, somebody who connects with the community. Our next superintendent of police needs to be able to work with and have experience working with communities of color, specifically brown and Black communities.”

Ed Banks commented, “I firmly believe we need a person of strong leadership, a reformist who is willing to shape up the system.”

Some residents said they prefer that the next superintendent be plucked from inside the ranks to award loyal hard-working, career officers who have knowledge of the department.

One resident said, “The culture inside CPD is so corrupt at this time an insider cannot change them,” and another resident insisted, “If it’s an outsider, they’ll respect them more.”

The board began accepting applications for the top job November 21. Applications are due by January 13.POLICE SUPERINTENDENTThe police board will select the three finalists that will be presented to Lightfoot. The City Council has to approve the mayor’s pick for Chicago’s top cop.

Johnson in 2016 was chosen by Emanuel after the board received 40 applications for the superintendent’s job. During his term, many believed that Johnson was a puppet whose decisions and leadership largely came from Emanuel.

Harry Richard noted, “The most important qualification is they be independent, and think independent from the mayor.”

“We’re looking for people with experience in leading crime reduction initiatives, making significant advances in training and accountability, and developing improving strategies in improving for increasing trust between police officers and the communities they serve, “said Foreman.

Two more listening sessions were scheduled this week at the Muslim Community Center on North Elston and the other Thursday at the JLM Community Center on West Jackson. Both run from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Foreman said the board is also open to meeting with community groups, block clubs and organizations in smaller listening sessions. In addition to listening sessions, Foreman said the board will be meeting with elected officials and CPD officers before making a decision on the new police superintendent.

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