Winters Says He Was Losing Control Of Police Department
By Jermont Terry, CBS Chicago
The police chief in Harvey has been removed from his post, days after the mayor of the south suburb put him on administrative leave.
Harvey Mayor Christopher J. Clark said he has “ended the city’s relationship” with police Chief Eddie Winters.
In a statement, Mayor Clark downplayed the move.
“It’s unfortunate that Illinois law uses terms like ‘removal from office’ for what is really a peaceful end to a relationship that was simply not a good fit,” Clark said in the statement. “Chief Winters is a highly credentialed law enforcement official and I am confident that he will succeed in any endeavors he undertakes in the future. Every day, relationships end that are not a good fit. This is a non-story. There is no scandal here.”
Clark said the same out loud Monday night.
“While Chief Winters has impeccable credentials, he’s simply not the right fit,” Clark said.
This past Thursday, Winters told CBS 2 that Clark had placed him on administrative leave. He called the move “totally unexpected” at the time.
CBS 2’s Jermont Terry was in the room when Mayor Clark announced Winters’ ouster.
When a police chief who is liked by many is ousted, it brings out a crowd demanding to know why. And indeed, the Harvey City Council Chambers were packed Monday night – with many shocked that Winters was out.
“You told us that this man was great!” one woman told the mayor. “You read a résumé this long!”
On Monday night, the former police chief said he refused to play politics.
Meanwhile, the parents of a child murdered in Harvey demanded to know if their loved one’s case had gotten lost in what is going on.
“I want justice for my daughter,” said Kentnilla Blackful.
Her daughter, Kentayvia Blackful, was sitting at the computer at home when she was struck in the head by a stray bullet around 9 p.m. Monday, Sept. 23 of last year.
At the time, Kentayvia’s family was putting the final touches on her birthday. They said she had just gotten her hair done, and bought new clothes.
Instead of a birthday party, she spent her 12th birthday the following day in the hospital in critical condition. The Cook County Medical Examiner’s office confirmed on the morning of Sept. 25 that the sixth grader at Gwendolyn Brooks Middle School had died.
“It is one of the biggest cases that came to Harvey?” said Kentayvia’s father, Trent Blackful. “Why is it not solved?”
The Blackfuls contend that while the shake-up was under way at the Harvey Police Department, their family is left without answers and crime is mounting.
“There’s body steady dropping and no one’s helping,” Kentnilla Blackful said. “There’s no police cars out here. Where is the help?”
Mayor Clark’s sudden decision to remove Winters left the Blackful family and others in Harvey wondering what brought about the firing – after less than one year on the job for Winter.
“I felt I did lose; that I was losing, slowly control of the department,” Winters said.
Winters clamed that control ultimately vanished when he did not promote three officers – who he said were handpicked by the mayor.
The former chief said that is the basis of his sudden departure.
“Once it became clear as to what this was all about, I had to make a decision, and I’ll just leave it at that,” Winters said. “A decision had to be made.”
The mayor did not respond to Winters’ claim that he told him to promote certain officers.
The City Council meeting remained in progress as of 10 p.m.
Before getting hired in June 2019, Winters worked for the Chicago Police Department for 25 years.
Robert Collins Jr., former chief of the Dolton Police Department, will serve as interim police chief, Clark said in a statement.
This article originally appeared on CBS Chicago News.