Next top cop should come from within CPD, residents say

“I wouldn’t want anyone to come inside my home that doesn’t live here and start moving furniture and cooking in my kitchen. Chicago needs a Chicago commander,” one participant said.

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Attendees at a community forum on the search for the next Chicago police superintendent advocated for the next leader to be chosen from within the department.

The virtual forum earlier this week was hosted by the Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability, the civilian agency tasked with finding former Supt. David Brown’s replacement. The commission is conducting a nationwide search for his successor and will present three candidates to new Mayor Brandon Johnson by mid-July.

During Tuesday’s forum, Anthony Driver Jr., interim president of the commission, said six applications have been submitted so far. The deadline to apply is May 7.

Several participants told the commission casting a nationwide net was a step in the wrong direction and the next superintendent should have a fundamental understanding of Chicago that can only come from years of experience in the city.

“This nonsense of bringing in people from outside the city of Chicago and expecting them to understand the complications and things that our communities go through has been an abject failure,” Will Powers said.

“We see it time and time again, where individuals don’t know the city of Chicago, don’t know our diverse and culturally different communities,” Powers said. “We need someone from within the Chicago Police Department that is a proven leader that can bring these communities together.”

Others echoed Powers’ comments, urging the commission to prioritize CPD candidates.

“You should be looking for someone from the Chicago Police Department, someone who’s been there for a good while,” Walter Kindred said. “Someone who has a good relationship with all the other commanders and lieutenants.”

Kesha Williams put it simply, asking the commission, “Why would we look nationwide for someone? I wouldn’t want anyone to come inside my home that doesn’t live here and start moving furniture and cooking in my kitchen. Chicago needs a Chicago commander.”

Multiple speakers at the forum suggested 3rd District Cmdr. Roderick Watson be considered for the position. Watson, 56, has been with the department since 1996.

“I want to give kudos to Commander Watson and everything he’s done,” said Donnell Williams of the Flourishing Community Initiative. “Being intentional with good relationships in the community but also being intentional with meeting people where they are.”

Residents will have more opportunities to weigh in on the search next month. The next community forum is scheduled for May 4 at Theodore Roosevelt High School. Another two will be held on May 10 at Kennedy High School and on May 22 at the Beverly Arts Center.

The head of the civilian commission has vowed to find a “visionary” who can shepherd the department through a “time of great change.”

After decades of calls for more civilian oversight of the police department, the City Council passed an ordinance in July 2021 creating both the commission and new councils covering each of the city’s 22 police districts.

The commission also fills Police Board vacancies and has the power to select and remove the top official in the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, with City Council approval. It sets CPD policy and establishes goals for the department and those oversight agencies.

Contributing: Tom Schuba

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