Chicago is rivaled in its reputation for violence only by its reputation for corruption. Those are two huge flaws we — as citizens of Chicago and students who claim to love this city with every post we make of the Old Water Tower on Instagram — cannot ignore. Because they impact us.
“Murder City” is where we live, and at its heart are city officials who circumvent laws and ordinances to do whatever they wish.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel is trying to find a way to bypass laws set up to check his power in the appointment of a new Chicago Police Department superintendent. Here’s why Emanuel can’t be allowed to ignore the law.
Laquan McDonald was 17 years old when he was shot 16 times by CPD officer Jason Van Dyke on Oct. 20, 2014. Van Dyke now faces first-degree murder charges.
On Dec. 31, 2015, CPD Superintendent Garry McCarthy served his last day in office after Emanuel fired him over McDonald’s death.
Since then, the Chicago Police Board has been performing one of its duties by searching for candidates to nominate for superintendent. The board is made up of nine private citizens who are appointed by the mayor with the consent of the City Council.
In mid-March, the Police Board gave Emanuel a list of three superintendent choices out of a pool of 39 applicants from across the country. Emanuel chose none.
He instead chose his own candidate, CPD Chief of Patrol Eddie Johnson and made him the interim superintendent. Johnson did not apply for the position.
Emanuel turned down Cedric L. Alexander, the DeKalb County, Georgia, public safety director; Anne Kirkpatrick, a Spokane, Washington, retired police chief; and Eugene Williams, who serves as a deputy police superintendent in Chicago as well as the chief of the Bureau of Support Services.
Alexander is a psychologist who worked in policing early in his career, according to the New York Times. He is the former president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives and wrote a column posted on CNN’s website condemning the actions of his would-have-been boss, Emanuel. The column’s title was “Laquan McDonald’s shooting took seconds; cover-up more than a year.”
In Spokane, Kirkpatrick worked to correct a police department plagued by scandal. Before Kirkpatrick took office, some officers beat and hogtied a mentally disabled man who later died in police custody, according to the New York Times. Kirkpatrick promoted transparency in the department and disciplined officers. She and the city were successfully sued by one detective, however, for wrongful termination.
Williams was the only Police Board nominee to be a member of the CPD. He moved from patrolman to deputy superintendent during his 36 years with the department.
The former interim superintendent, John J. Escalante, applied for the position but was not among the Police Board’s finalists, despite his 29-year career with CPD in the department’s patrol and detective bureaus, according to the New York Times.
City laws require Emanuel to pick one of the Police Board’s nominees for the position, but that’s not what Emanuel wants to do. Although Johnson may be a good candidate for the position, he’s certainly not the only good candidate. All of the finalists have the experience necessary to turn this city around. They all have the experience necessary to stop gun violence from rising at alarming rates so stray bullets don’t hit another Loyola student — or anyone else, for that matter.
If Emanuel wanted all along to chose whoever he wanted, he at least could have had Johnson apply for the position with the first round of applicants.
Emanuel wants the Police Board to conduct another search and this time to nominate Johnson. If Emanuel chooses the next police superintendent this way, it won’t be illegal, but it will be another reason for Chicagoans’ faith in him to drop even lower.
Community trust in CPD and Chicago government is low, and this situation just creates more doubt. Chicagoans’ doubt is creating problems and provoking violence. As police officer morale continues to drop, streets go unpoliced and bad cops become more wayward. If you bend the rules at the top, as Emanuel has, why not break them at the bottom?