Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson names new police chief

Chicago has a new mayor who has promised big changes to the city’s controversial police department – and one of his first big jobs will be picking a new police chief.

Mayor Brandon Johnson started his campaign with 2% in the polls before winning an overwhelming victory. Johnson told Chicagoans his plan is to bring one new beginning on public safety in Chicago, which would primarily strengthen police accountability and work with the city’s Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability to “reduce systemic racism, vigorously pursue long-needed police accountability reforms, and improve the department’s goals and accomplishments.” to rate”.

Johnson’s plan included passing an ordinance to abolish no-knock warrants and eliminate racism in the city Gang Database, publication of data on arrests and traffic stops, among others. While Johnson said he would not “defund the police,” as runoff candidate Paul Vallas claimed in an assault complaint, Johnson said he would redirect funds around Chicago to establish a more holistic approach to the city’s public safety.

Johnson has already named Fred Waller as the city’s interim top cop. The Public Safety Commission must present Johnson with three candidates until July 14th. He has 30 days to make a decision or opt out of the list altogether.

During a press conference, Johnson said he chose Fred Waller as interim chief for this reason “Experience and Integrity.” It was a controversial decision after Waller was previously suspended from the department and then eventually retired in 2020 after he compared aspects of police reform in the department to rape.

During the last murders four months in the city are down 10%, the totals are still at a record mid-decade high, with 695 Homicides in 2022 – a significant increase in homicides in the city compared to the previous year 2015, where 468 people were killed.

Johnson’s office did not respond to comment on the selection process.

In recent years, the city has seen shocking instances of police brutality. The city’s police department remains under a state consent decree after Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke murdered Laquan McDonald, a black 17-year-old, in 2014.

Adam Toledo, a 13-year-old Latino who was killed by another Chicago police officer, Eric Stillman, in 2021. There were no criminal charges in the case, although it aggravated an already strained relationship between police and the residents they are supposed to be protecting.

A 2020 Chicago Tribune poll found that 80% of white residents said the police made them feel safer, while less than half of blacks said the same. Only 33% of black men between the ages of 18 and 25 agreed.

The poll also found that many black residents felt that relations between the local city police force and the community were fractured. 34% of young black men surveyed rated the relationship between the police and the community as very poor. 69% of their white peers felt that community-police relations were very good.

Jurors are shown dashcam video from a police vehicle of the moments following the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald while Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke attends his first-degree murder trial for the shooting of McDonald on October 3, 2018.
Jurors are shown dashcam video from a police vehicle of the moments following the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald while Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke attends his first-degree murder trial for the shooting of McDonald on October 3, 2018.

John J Kim via Associated Press

Aside from the high profile police killings, the reasons for this distrust are well documented. 2019 research by the American Civil Liberties Union found that the CPD’s stop-and-frisk policies disproportionately targeted black neighborhood residents. It turned out that about 70% of all pedestrian stops were black people – while black people make up only 33% of the city’s population.

The ACLU found in 2014 that there were 250,000 such stops that never resulted in the arrest of a person. Also, at the height of New York stop and search practices, Chicago residents were four times more likely to be stopped than New York residents.

In 2021, the ACLU sued the department over a social media surveillance program that began monitoring people in the wake of the protests following the killing of George Floyd. The ACLU said the surveillance program is a red flag for the city’s history of surveillance and concern over citizens who have sparked protests by engaging on social media.

“This is a city that had the Laquan McDonald tragedy, but the mayor’s other tragedy to cover it up. That’s what happens when you have an all-powerful mayor who controls everything,” Anthony Driver, the president of the CCPSA, told HuffPost.

At the same time, there has long been instability at the top of the department. As of 2016, there are five different police commissioners, each serving as chief constable for a maximum of three years. Three of them, including Waller, have come as acting police inspectors in the past three months.

Officers are leaving, too: In 2022, there were a total of 11,710 sworn police officers in the department at the start of the year, but last August that number declined thereafter over 1,000 police officers left the force.

Kenneth Corey, director of outreach and engagement at the University of Chicago Policing Leadership Academy, said every transition creates chaos.

“The average life expectancy of a police chief in a big city today is about three years. It also goes so far that it becomes very difficult to make progress on reforms, for example in Chicago, within the confines of the consent decree,” Corey told HuffPost.

This has become a reality in many large city departments. The average tenure for a police chief is about 7.3 years, but in larger agencies with 1,000 or more employees, tenure does not exceed five years. say police researchers.

“Any change at the top of the police organization leads to chaos in the police force [organization] and this chaos stifles any kind of innovation or growth in the agency. Lower people never know where they’re going to sit,” Corey said.

This time Johnson is doing things differently – it will be the first selection process where the community has a tighter hand in choosing the top police officer.

Driver, who told HuffPost that the Accountability Committee has been operating for nearly eight months, has held seven open community forums at City Hall, spoken to over 300 people and has worked with the community for at least 120 hours related to the selection process of a new police superintendent.

He sees the community contribution as a step in the right direction.

Police search downtown in Highland Park following a shooting at a Fourth of July parade on July 4, 2022.
Police search downtown in Highland Park following a shooting at a Fourth of July parade on July 4, 2022.

Nam Y Huh via Associated Press

“It’s never happened in our city before. Because they never had an option, they never had a choice. It was up to Daley, Emmanuel or Lightfoot,” Driver told HuffPost.

If community policing is to become a reality in Chicago, officers need more support and stability, said Meocole Jordan, who directs Chicago policing Community policing initiative as Advocacy Director for the Police Project at the NYU School of Law.

“When we think about a superintendent for Chicago, he or she has to be willing to lead by example and understand the importance of this cause and how real policing and building trust benefits everyone,” Jordan said. “He or she needs to agree with that idea and make sure they enforce proper training, expectations and policies when working in the precincts.”

Evelyn Bradshaw, a 35-year-old black woman who has lived in Chicago all her life, said much of the distrust between police and the community stems from the lack of respect officers have for the citizens they are meant to protect .

Bradshaw told HuffPost she recalls seeing her brothers being stopped and searched by police multiple times, with no arrests made afterwards. Bradshaw said she wanted to educate her son about his rights.

“I hope that doesn’t happen to my son, but I will make sure he gets a proper education,” she said.

Just a week and a half ago, officers searched the front yard of Bradshaw’s home. Her presence surprised her, but it wasn’t the first time she’d walked out the door to police in her yard, and officers on the scene never contacted her despite being on her property.

Every time she met a group of officers in her front yard, they said there had been a shootout, or that a gun had been found in her yard, or that they were looking for shell casings. At first, Bradshaw didn’t think much about it. But when officials kept arriving unannounced in her garden, her skepticism grew.

“They could plant things, I don’t know. But my job is to protect my children so we can feel safe,” she said.

The city’s police commissioner must bring about change in the department, and much of that effort will be focused on finally building trust with the citizens of Chicago.

“There’s no switch you flick,” Corey said. “They need to have a clear vision and plan for how they’re going to fight crime and build community trust in Chicago.”

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