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CPD command overhauled after Johnson seeks McDonald cop firings

Sun-Times file photo

Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson on Thursday announced a shakeup of the department’s command staff, naming a Hispanic man to replace the superintendent’s second-in-command and a woman to become chief of detectives.

Deputy Chief Kevin Navarro will become first deputy superintendent, replacing John Escalante, the current No. 2 in the department. Escalante announced his retirement earlier this week to become police chief at Northeastern Illinois University.

Ald. George Cardenas (12th), chairman of the City Council’s Hispanic Caucus, welcomed Johnson’s decision to replace Escalante with another Hispanic as first deputy. That’s a demand made earlier this week by former Hispanic Caucus Chairman Danny Solis (25th).

“The violence isn’t just in the African-American community. It’s not just on the West Side and the South Side. It’s in the Hispanic community. The superintendent needs a No. 2 person who can give him a different perspective. Someone who reflects the diversity of the city and also the diversity of the problems we face,” Cardenas said.

Deputy Chief Melissa Staples will become chief of detectives, replacing Eugene Roy, 62, who faces age-related retirement, said Anthony Guglielmi, chief spokesman for the Chicago Police Department.

The department’s mandatory retirement age is 63, which Roy will reach on his birthday in November. He’ll stay on the job to assist Staples in the transition, Guglielmi said.

Staples will become the department’s second female chief of detectives. Maria Maher served in that role from 2005 to 2009.

The moves come as several other promotions were announced as part of Johnson’s new leadership team. At least seven of those police officers rose through the ranks with the benefit of merit promotions, a thorn in the side of the police union, according to records disclosed to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Navarro, the new top deputy, got a merit appointment to lieutenant in May 2006 and another merit promotion to captain in March 2009. His sponsor was not known.

Merit promotions to the rank of captain have also gone to Kenneth Angarone, James O’Donnell and Terrence Williams, who are the new street operations deputy chiefs; James Jones, the new deputy chief of detectives, and to deputy chief of patrol George Devereux.

Lawrence Watson, the new deputy chief of area south patrol, got a merit promotion to the rank of captain. He was sponsored by James Roussell, who served as chief of staff to former Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy.

The changes at the top come after Deputy Chief David McNaughton retired Monday. He was forced out after the city Inspector General’s office found evidence of a cover-up in the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald in 2014.

On Thursday, Johnson announced he’s moving to fire seven officers for allegedly lying in their accounts of what happened in the McDonald shooting. Another officer whom Johnson was going to fire has resigned. He has decided not to discipline a 10th officer whom Inspector General Joe Ferguson said should be fired.

While Cardenas said he’s happy with Johnson’s choice to elevate Navarro to the No. 2 job, he added, “We’ll take a look at the rest of his leadership team. The superintendent will have to make sure that any of these individuals are free from any of the Laquan McDonald fallout so we can start fresh with new leadership and a new perspective.”

With homicides and shootings up by nearly 50 percent and alarming increases in other categories of violent crime, Cardenas urged the new lineup of police brass to deliver on Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s 2011 campaign promise to hire 1,000 additional police officers. Overtime is no substitute, Cardenas said.

“You can clearly see it’s wearing thin on the officers. We’ve got to come to grips with that. We need to address the manpower shortage. We can’t shortchange it any longer. Crime is spreading to other areas of the city. That tells you we’ve got a big problem that must be addressed immediately,” Cardenas said.

Contributing: Tim Novak