Police Board launches search for new Chicago Police superintendent

CHICAGO (Sun-Times Media Wire) - Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s revamped Police Board on Thursday launched a nationwide search for a new police superintendent amid concern that the furor over the Laquan McDonald shooting video and a federal civil rights investigation could diminish interest in the $260,000-a-year job, the Sun-Times is reporting.

With a “code of silence” to eliminate and bridges to rebuild in the African-American community, the Police Board has established a tight time frame to fill the position held since May 2011 by larger-than-life Police Supt. Garry McCarthy.

Applications are due Jan. 15. The board will then summon roughly 10 semi-finalists for in-person interviews before presenting the names of three finalists to Emanuel by the end of February.

Police Board President Lori Lightfoot, who is also co-chairing Emanuel’s Task Force on Police Accountability, called the search for McCarthy’s replacement “one of the most important” in Chicago history.

“We need a great leader who can heal, unite and protect us in these uncertain times,” she said.

“Anybody who has been following what’s transpiring in Chicago policing over the last two weeks understands we face challenges. But I would hope they also understand that those challenges present a tremendous opportunity. It’s a chance to rebuild a great organization and put one’s personal stamp on best-in-class practices for policing from top-to-bottom and really be a visionary in 21st century policing. This is what we need and this is what we hope will find.”

The Police Board has not hired a search firm. Lightfoot contended that is not necessary since “anybody worth their salt in law enforcement knows this position is open.”

But the board is advertising in a host of law enforcement trade publications and using its “extensive contacts” to network with potential candidates across the nation.

The application includes eight essay questions that go the heart of the crisis confronting Chicago after what Emanuel has called a “systematic breakdown” that culminated in the “totally avoidable” police shooting of Laquan McDonald.

For example, candidates will be asked to define “accountability in the context of policing” and to identify the “best practices for early-warning systems” for officers whose actions trigger multiple citizen complaints.

They will also be asked how they “assess and address bias-based policing” and how the message gets “articulated to the police force and executed” all the way down to officers on the beat.

Another question talks about recent “highly publicized issues involving use of force by police officers” in Chicago and around the nation.

Candidates are asked to articulate their philosophies on use of force; investigations regarding use of force, including transparency, timing and independence of investigators versus internal investigations; and “so-called militarization of modern police departments.”

In a multi-part question on community engagement and community policing, candidates are asked how they propose to confront the “significant distrust” between citizens and police in Chicago.

Now that Emanuel has openly acknowledged that there is a “code of silence” in the Chicago Police Department, candidates are also asked to talk in detail about the issue of “police integrity.”

Specifically, they’re asked to articulate plans to foster a culture where officers “elevate the importance of telling the truth” and complying with rules of conduct “over the temptation to protect themselves or each other from discipline.”

They’re asked how they plan to “incentivize officers” to not only exercise “personal integrity” but to “report misconduct on the part of other officers.”

Other questions focus on technology, terrorism, strategies to reduce homicides and shootings and on ways to increase diversity and “encourage persons of color to join the force in times of community distrust.”

Last week, Emanuel fired his only police superintendent, saying that McCarthy had become a “distraction” in the unrelenting furor over the city’s decision to keep the Laquan McDonald shooting video under wraps until after the April 7 mayoral runoff and wait until one week after the election to settle the case for $5 million even before the McDonald family had filed a lawsuit.

The video was released only after a judge ordered the city to do so.

This week, the Justice Department opened a sweeping civil rights investigation that could ultimately lead to a court order and the appointment of a federal monitor similar to the one that rode herd over city hiring for nearly a decade.

Emanuel initially called the federal investigation “misguided” before reversing field.

“We not only welcome it, we need it,” he said.

Although the feds will be looking over the new superintendent’s shoulder for years and the Fraternal Order of Police is resisting changes to the disciplinary process, Lightfoot claimed she’s not concerned that McCarthy’s shoes will be tough to fill.

“Other departments have had similar experiences and had other people come in and lead them. Chicago is not unique. This situation presents a tremendous opportunity for the right person,” she said.

“Responsible people in our community recognize that we must have a strong and vibrant police force that does the job the right way with respect for people they’re sworn to protect. We’re going to be looking for somebody who understands the current dynamic, but has a proven track record of earning, maintaining and building upon the trust and respect of the community. That’s a critical part of what we’ll be looking for.”

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