Chicago board halts naming police chief candidates

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 01, 2016 2:57 PM

By Suzannah Gonzales

CHICAGO (Reuters) - The board in charge of choosing candidates to become Chicago's next police chief said on Friday it will not suggest any new names until it sees whether the city council changes the selection rules.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Monday ignored the board's three finalists, the result of a national search, and instead named a veteran black police supervisor as interim superintendent to lead the department.

The Democratic mayor is trying to rebuild the third-biggest U.S. city's trust in a police force facing a federal investigation and racism accusations.

The tarnished image of Chicago's police has been a political liability for Emanuel, who defied calls to resign last year after days of protests following the release of video capturing a white officer's shooting of black teenager Laquan McDonald.

That case was one of numerous fatal police shootings of unarmed African-Americans across the United States that have stirred outrage and raised questions of racial bias in policing.

The Chicago Police Board said on Friday it will take no further action until developments play out, citing media reports about possible changes by the city council to rules on appointing a police superintendent. City officials are seeking to avoid another national search for a superintendent, reports said.

"The Police Board will be taking the time that it needs to determine the best path forward with regard to the Superintendent vacancy," Lori Lightfoot, police board president, said in a statement.

Emanuel's choice for interim superintendent was Eddie Johnson, the 55-year-old head of the police department's patrol division. He is the third superintendent to lead the Chicago Police Department in less than four months.

Roderick Sawyer, a city council alderman and black caucus chairman, said he has not seen any official proposals about changing the rules regarding the selection of a superintendent.

Sawyer said the mayor should be allowed to pick the superintendent as it is one of the most important jobs in the city. Also, taxpayers' and superintendent applicants' time and money may be wasted when the board selects candidates and the mayor eventually rejects them, he said.

Emanuel did not respond to requests for comment.

Johnson said in a department statement on Friday that he plans to meet with activists, elected officials and others to find ways to make Chicago safer.

The violent crime rate "remains unacceptably high," with murders in Chicago rising in March by 29 percent compared with March 2015, the statement said.

(Editing by Matthew Lewis)