Johnson identifies ‘nominators' of 40 sergeants promoted on merit

(BBC World Service/Flickr)

Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson has promoted 142 sergeants — 40 of them on the basis of merit — and followed through on his promise to identify the people who nominated them, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.

Fraternal Order of Police President Dean Angelo was not particularly impressed. To him, it was same old, same old.

“We saw a couple of individuals on there who were injured in the line of duty. That, we were glad to see. But we also saw some of the old, promote your secretary. Guys have been talking about this guy having worked for that boss,” Angelo said.

“In New York, officers who have been shot are given their detective shield while they’re in the hospital. When the recover, they’re a detective. That’s what should be automatic here. You made the ultimate sacrifice. Now, we’re gonna put you to work.”

Police Department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi defended the merit promotions by 36 different police “nominators.”

Commanders James Sanchez and Sean Loughran were the only police brass to nominate more than one officer for merit promotions to the rank of sergeant; each nominated two. The other 36 merit sergeants all had different sponsors.

“Reforms start with good leadership and good leadership starts good people. These transparently-shared promotions are the latest in the Department’s ongoing efforts to strengthen leadership across ranks,” Guglielmi wrote in an email to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Guglielmi noted that candidates for merit promotion went through a “rigorous interview process by a board of deputy chiefs.” The final list was presented to Johnson.

These candidates were among the most qualified from the interviews,” Guglielmi wrote.

“We understand that no matter how rigorous the process is for promotions, there will always be differing opinions over the results. [But], because of the reforms we made, those conversations are no longer left to whispers around headquarters. We will now publish all merit promotions for everyone to see and police administrations moving forward will have to stand behind the decisions made.”

The Chicago Sun-Times reported last month that Johnson was shining the light on a merit-promotion process condemned by officers interviewed by the U.S. Department of Justice as a “reward for cronyism” and clout.

Johnson ordered a return to a reform imposed, then rescinded, a few years ago: identifying the “nominators” of each officer promoted on the basis of merit.

In its scathing indictment of the Chicago Police Department, the Justice Department said the “lack of transparency” surrounding the process of nominating and qualifying for merit promotions was “one of the major complaints from officers” interviewed.

Since the early 1990’s, the city has used merit promotions, presumably to bolster the number of minorities in supervisory ranks.

“This has led many officers to believe that merit promotions are a reward for cronyism rather than a recognition of excellence that was overlooked by the testing process,” the report states.

“Many of the officers we spoke with, minority and non-minority alike, told us they feel merit promotions are not truly based on merit, but rather the clout you hold in the department or who you know. … Officers believe that CPD leadership gives merit promotions to individuals who are unqualified to serve as leaders merely because those individuals have connections up the chain of command or have advocates in positions of power outside of CPD who call in favors or lobby on their behalf.”

The report said female officers “in particular” feel they are “frequently overlooked” for merit promotions recommended by a five-member board. The superintendent has the final say and is not bound by the board’s recommendations.

The DOJ noted that CPD has “moved in a positive direction” by establishing a hiring plan, allowing oversight by Inspector General Joe Ferguson and by introducing new policies and manuals that, in part, describe information that may be considered by the Merit Board.

The superintendent must also fill out a “written justification memorandum” explaining the basis for merit selections.

But the DOJ noted: “Nothing about the reasoning is made public. The justification is often cursory. And candidates who are eligible, but did not receive merit promotions, are never provided an explanation for why they were not selected.”

And some of those policies are “written in vague terms” allowing problematic promotions to go undetected.

“Indeed we know of at least one example where an individual received a merit promotion based on clout rather than merit even after the new procedures outlined in the hiring plan were in effect,” the report states.

“A recent inquiry from the IG found that, as part of the 2013 sergeants merit promotion process, an officer assigned to the then-superintendent [Garry McCarthy’s] security detail was inappropriately promoted to sergeant.”