By Aryn Braun
Still reeling from the fallout after recent police shootings on the South and West sides, residents vented their frustration at a Chicago Police Board meeting in Englewood Tuesday, calling for more involvement in the search for a new police superintendent.
“The superintendent’s job is not a title,” said Jack Sullivan, 60, of Englewood, donning a beanie bearing a sequined image of President Obama. “You have to get out there and talk to the people. I am the people! If you want to be the superintendent, walk through Englewood with me.”
Chicago police board members sat stony-faced on stage as residents berated them for a lack of police accountability in the wake of the Laquan McDonald shooting, demanding a say in the replacement of fired former Superintendent Garry McCarthy. The McDonald case thrust Chicago into the national spotlight and sparked protests in the weeks that followed.
Originally slated for a Bronzeville location, the meeting moved to Kennedy-King College to accommodate the nearly 200 attendees who shared their thoughts on reforming the Chicago Police Department. Residents focused on greater community involvement in police affairs and separation between the mayor’s office and the police chief.
Many speakers veered away from hiring specifics, condemning the board, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez for the handling of the McDonald case in October of 2014. The teen was shot 16 times by Jason Van Dyke, who has since been fired and charged with first-degree murder.
“If there’s a contract that protects police who kill unarmed black people, they need to open up the Fraternal Order of Police and change it, said Zakiyyah Muhammad, a community activist from Bronzeville. “If I kill you I’m going to jail. I’m not going back to work or getting put on desk duty.”
Others, too, expressed anger, repeating their desire to see a African-American superintendent replace McCarthy, who was earning roughly $260,000 a year when he was fired in late November, the day before the McDonald video was released.
Police Board President Lori Lightfoot expressed her intention to hire a new superintendent by the end of February.
“You’ve heard a lot of complaints about the way the Chicago Police Department conducts its business,” Lightfoot said. “For anybody who is a current member of the department, for anyone who is a recently departed member of the department, we’re going to have some very direct and thoughtful questions for them about, “Where were you? what did you do?”
Lightfoot is also a member of Chicago’s new five-member police accountability task force, assembled by Emanuel following a judge’s order to release the dash-cam video of McDonald’s killing.
The application process, including eight essay questions focusing primarily on police accountability and bias training, closes Friday. The board will present their top three picks to the mayor, who will make the final decision.