Chicago council panel votes to change selection process for police chief

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 12, 2016 6:01 PM

By Justin Madden

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel moved a step closer on Tuesday to being allowed to name his choice for police chief on a permanent basis, after a city council committee voted to temporarily change the selection process.

The issue underscores the political sensitivities in naming a successor to the former chief, who was ousted in December after days of protests over a white officer's shooting of a black teenager, which was captured on video.

The Chicago Police Department faces a federal probe on its use of force following the 2014 shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.

Eddie Johnson, who is black, was selected last month as interim chief of police by Emanuel, who rejected the three candidates chosen by the police board as part of the city's search process.

City aldermen on the Committee on Public Safety voted on Tuesday to amend a city ordinance that requires the mayor to select a candidate suggested by the city's police board. The full city council is expected to vote on Wednesday, potentially allowing Emanuel to name Johnson as the permanent chief in his bid to rebuild the third-biggest U.S. city's trust in the police department.

"We need somebody at the helm right now to lead this department, to get morale up, get crime down and get this overtime situation that's out of control in hand," Alderman Anthony Beale said in supporting the Tuesday vote. 

While not opposed to Johnson, some alderman criticized how events unfolded, saying the move was circumventing the official selection process and wasting the more than $500,000 spent by the police board.

The McDonald 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 previous Chicago police superintendent, Garry McCarthy, was fired amid public outrage that the city delayed for more than a year the release of the McDonald video, which led to first-degree murder charges against the officer. In the aftermath of protests, the U.S. Justice Department launched an investigation into Chicago police shootings.

(Reporting by Justin Madden; Writing by Ben Klayman; Editing by Matthew Lewis)