CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago's police board on Thursday presented the mayor with the names of three final contenders to become police chief, saying they offer the best chance to restore the department's reputation that was shattered by the release of a video of a white police officer fatally shooting a black teen and stem a spike in violence.
"Chicago is at a critical juncture in its history and its future will in no small part depend on the ability of the next superintendent to lead the department in a new way," said Chicago Police Board President Lori Lightfoot.
The candidates include two African Americans and a retired Washington state police chief who would become the first woman to lead the force. Cedric Alexander is the public safety director in Georgia's DeKalb County. Anne Kirkpatrick was the chief in Spokane until she retired in 2012. And Eugene Williams is a deputy chief in Chicago who also was a finalist for the job in 2011.
The board voted unanimously to send the names to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, whose firing of Superintendent Garry McCarthy was part of a frantic effort to regain trust in the police department and his own leadership since the release last November of the video that shows Officer Jason Van Dyke shooting Laquan McDonald 16 times.
Van Dyke has been charged with first-degree murder and the video has prompted investigations, including a federal civil rights probe of the department.
The police chief short list does not include Interim Superintendent John Escalante, who has been running the department since McCarthy's firing, and who said he applied for the job. But he could still be named the permanent superintendent if Emanuel rejects all three finalists and asks the board to conduct another nationwide search, as he is allowed under the law.
In her comments Thursday, Lightfoot talked about the challenges the new superintendent will have regaining trust in the community and combatting the violent crime that has surged since the beginning of the year. Homicides and shooting incidents doubled in the first two months of 2016 compared to the same period last year.
She said the board looked closely at several issues, including how the three finalists have fought crime and how they handle police misconduct and police shooting cases — issues that have dominated recent news coverage of Chicago's police department. But while many in the public have urged the board to select an African-American, citing the historic mistrust of police in minority neighborhoods, Lightfoot said race did not figure in the selection process.
There have also been concerns that officers have, in the aftermath of the video, been less aggressive than they should, with statistics for the first two months of the year showing a drop in the number of street stops officers have made and illegal guns they've seized. Lightfoot said the board is confident in the finalists' ability to inspire officers to fight crime.
Kirkpatrick, 56, is an instructor with the FBI's Law Enforcement Executive Development Association in the Seattle area. Perhaps the most widely known of the three finalists, 61-year-old Alexander has served on President Barack Obama's Task Force on 21st Century Policing and appears as a commentator on CNN. Williams, 62, has been with the Chicago Police Department for three decades. He was a finalist for the top job in 2011 before Emanuel hired McCarthy.
This story has been corrected to show that Alexander's first name is spelled Cedric, not Cedrick.