Racism, accountability top concerns at hearing on Chicago's new top cop

Reuters News
Posted: Jan 12, 2016 11:21 PM

By Fiona Ortiz

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Convicted criminals and crime victims, high-level local officials and former police officers made public recommendations on who should lead Chicago's embattled police department at a packed community hearing on Tuesday.

The Chicago Police Board, the body that must screen candidates and recommend three possible new police chiefs to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, listened to almost more than an hour of input from mostly black Chicagoans concerned about racism on the force, the high level of police killings and slow and ineffective discipline of police misconduct.

Emanuel fired Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy in December following protests after the city released video of a white police officer shooting 16 times and killing a black teenager in October 2014. The officer faces trial for murder.

"The new superintendent will have to come prepared with an effective plan to train and address issues of subconscious racism and bias and overuse of excessive force," said the Cook County clerk of the Circuit Court, Dorothy Brown, one of about 25 people who took the microphone for two-minute speaking turns at an auditorium on the south side of Chicago.

Another speaker, Jack Sullivan, who said he was a criminal with a long rap sheet and bullets in his back, called the police the "biggest gang in the city."

"They kill and get away with it. It's swept under the table. ... If you want to be superintendent, walk in Englewood with me," he said, echoing sentiment of many speakers at the hearing who said they wanted a new police chief who can connect with the community.

Many speakers said they want a black chief. Chicago, the country's third largest city, is about one-third African-American, but crime and complaints of police violence are concentrated in black neighborhoods. The city has had three black police chiefs in the past.

Tuesday's hearing organized by the Chicago Urban League was moved to a larger hall due to the high level of interest. It was heated, but did not reel out of control like town halls last year with Emanuel.

Chicago Police Board President Lori Lightfoot said the board would weigh seriously all public recommendations in the national search, which is expected to conclude in late February.

The U.S. Department of Justice is conducting a probe of the use of lethal force by Chicago police. Members of the department have shot and injured or killed about 400 people in the last eight years, 75 percent of whom were black.

(Editing by Leslie Adler)