Police superintendent selection process gets underway

By Iacopo Luzi

Fewer candidates have applied to become Chicago’s next police superintendent than in 2011, the last time the city got a new top cop.

By last Friday’s deadline, 39 people had submitted their application to the Chicago Police Board, the independent body that will select finalists for the job and submit those names to Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Now that the applications are in, the selection process officially begins for the job.

In the next month, the police board will review all the applications and narrow the pool down to a group of semi-finalists that they will interview. From that group, the police board will choose three finalists to submit to Emanuel, who will make the final choice.

Although the superintendent job pays $260,004-a-year, five people less than in 2011 applied for the position, according to Max Carboni, the police board’s executive director. Many of the candidates are African-American, and many applications came from individuals inside the department, Carboni confirmed. But the candidate pool includes applicants from outside the city also, as well as some with military experience.

The hard part of the task is yet to come: Finding a candidate who can restore the public’s confidence and repair the reputation of the police department following a rash of police shootings of civilians–22 people were shot by Chicago police, eight of them fatally, in 2015–as well as the Homan Square scandal.

The new superintendent will also have to find a way to curb the city’s gun violence: In 2015, according to police statistics, 443 people were killed, and there were nearly 3,000 shootings.

To get community input, a police board meeting will be held Thursday, Jan. 21 at Chicago Public Safety Headquarters, 3510 South Michigan Avenue .

Lori Lightfoot, head of the police board, said in an official statement that, “A large number of people asked questions and offered comments on a wide range of important issues at our Jan. 12 community input session. We welcome additional public comment and will give it our full consideration.”

A heated meeting at Kennedy-King

The Jan. 12 panel was organized at Kennedy-King College in Englewood by the Chicago Urban League (a civil rights organization affiliated with the National Urban League). Four members of the police board were present to discuss the superintendent search and to hear all perspectives.

About 100 people attended the meeting, which turned heated as many of those who spoke expressed distrust of the police board and the department in general. Some 40 people spoke, and others were kept outside by security personnel even though some seats inside remained open.

“The superintendent should be a black person without any doubt, a person integrated in the community who comes from the streets and knows what it is like in an urban jungle like Chicago,” said Richard Wellington, one of the people who attended the panel.

Naimah Latif, an activist who was fiercely critical of the board, said the board “is just a bunch of puppets chosen by the Mayor. How can we trust them for this reason? They will never do the right thing!”

Many of those who spoke said they hope for a superintendent who will be able to engage the community, burn bridges with the past and stand up to the mayor without fear.

“One of the most important things we asked in the application is how the candidates would face the situation of the city and with which strategy,” said Lightfoot after the panel.

“The fact is that people will be never happy about our choice,” said Ghian Foreman, vice president of the police board. “If we choose a person who comes from inside the city, people will tell us that he is too involved and he does not have an objective vision. If we choose a person from outside the city, people will tell us that he will not be able to understand the dynamics of the city.”

Foreman continued, “We can’t just pick a candidate for the fact that he is a black person, because we would discard many valid candidates. Yet, in the end, we will try to propose to the mayor three candidates with profiles completely different one from each other.”

Given the state of the city–since the beginning of 2016, more than 100 people have been shot and seven killed, according to police statistics–the new superintendent will face a critical but difficult task.

Photo at top: The police board listens to comments from the community at Kennedy-King College. (Iacopo Luzi/MEDILL)