The African-American public safety director of DeKalb County, Georgia, outside Atlanta, has emerged as a front-runner to replace fired Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy, sources said Thursday.
Cedric Alexander is a high-ranking official in the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives and holds a doctoral degree in clinical psychology and a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy.
His resume includes stints as police chief of Rochester, New York, deputy commissioner of the New York State Police and security director for the Transportation Security Administration at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.
Alexander also spent 15 years on the street as an officer in the Miami-Dade Police Department. He did not return a call seeking comment.
Police Board President Lori Lightfoot has said she hopes to forward the names of three finalists to Mayor Rahm Emanuel by early next week.
The nationwide search started with 39 applicants and was winnowed to a select group that was the subject of background checks by an outside firm and in-person interviews by the nine-member board.
Lightfoot refused to comment on Alexander. Three sources said they expect Alexander to be among the three finalists. One source described him as a “rock star.”
After defending McCarthy for months, Emanuel abruptly fired him on Dec. 1, saying the larger-than-life superintendent became a “distraction” in the furor over the police shooting of Laquan McDonald.
Emanuel has been under fire for keeping the McDonald shooting video under wraps for more than a year and waiting until a week after the April 7 mayoral runoff to authorize a $5 million settlement to the McDonald family — even before a lawsuit was filed.
Shortly after McCarthy was sent packing, Alexander did a CNN interview that could come back to haunt him with Emanuel.
“The mayor is going to have to do more than just fire McCarthy, quite frankly,” Alexander was quoted as saying, according to a transcript of his remarks.
“He’s got to answer some very tough questions himself politically.”
Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez “has to answer some tough questions as well,” Alexander said.
He also weighed in on the broader problem of excessive force.
“Chicago is a tough city. It has real tough problems. But looking across this [country], cities both large, small and mediocre size have the same kind of challenges. We’re going to have to find a way to balance good policing along with community [cooperation] as well to playing a part in their own public safety.”
Alexander discussed the Task Force on Police Accountability that Emanuel created the day he fired McCarthy.
“You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. What you need to do is pick up that 21st Century Task Force report [ordered by President Obama]. Go through it and look at the 59 recommendations. See what’s relevant to your community there in Chicago and make use of it,” he said.
Alexander’s mission when he arrived in DeKalb County in 2013 was to turn around a department plagued with officer misconduct. Yet the department has continued to suffer from controversial — and potentially criminal — conduct by officers.
In January, for example, DeKalb County Police Officer Robert Olsen was indicted on charges of murder, aggravated assault and making a false statement in the fatal shooting of Anthony Hill, a U.S. Air Force veteran who was naked and apparently unarmed when he was shot to death.
A lawsuit filed on behalf of Hill’s family said “increasing militarization” of the DeKalb County police force and lack of training led to a pattern of constitutional violations, including his killing.
In September 2015, long before the Hill shooting, Alexander rejected the idea that his department should bolster training because of four questionable shootings over two years.
“This is not a string of incidents,” the Atlanta Journal-Constitution quoted Alexander as saying. “No matter what police do right now, it’s not right.”
The DeKalb County Police Department has about 860 sworn officers and 230 support staff, according to its website. Alexander’s position as a public safety director in a county similar to suburban DuPage could make him a tough sell. So is the fact that he is an outsider.
After watching outsiders Jody Weis and McCarthy come and go as superintendents, Fraternal Order of Police President Dean Angelo has said he hoped the new $260,004-a-year superintendent would be an insider.
“It’s a little discouraging that you work in an agency, move up ranks, demonstrate competency and leadership only to find out they have to look elsewhere,” Angelo said after McCarthy was fired.