Cast a wide net in search for the next police superintendent

Interim Supt. Fred Waller is, by all accounts, respected throughout CPD. But we can’t help but think that real change in the department, which has been dragging its feet on reform, won’t happen without a fresh face.

SHARE Cast a wide net in search for the next police superintendent
Former Chicago Police Department Chief of Operations Fred Waller speaks during a news conference in River West after Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson introduced him as interim superintendent, Wednesday, May 3, 2023. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Former Chicago Police Department Chief of Operations Fred Waller speaks during a news conference in River West after Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson introduced him as interim superintendent on Wednesday.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson officially extended an olive branch to Chicago’s men and women in blue last week by selecting Chicago Police Department veteran Fred Waller as his interim police superintendent.

Waller, who by all accounts is well-respected throughout CPD, returned from retirement and said he has no plans to apply for the permanent position. But Johnson, it seems, is leaning toward hiring an insider for the job, as the Sun-Times’ Fran Spielman has reported — and Waller could be that person.

From Johnson’s perspective, that move makes sense. Hiring someone who knows Chicago and is trusted by top brass and rank-and-file officers would go a long way to mend fences with grizzled cops who feel that no one has had their backs.

Waller, as a familiar face who understands Chicago and describes himself as a “beat cop at heart,” can surely help create the essential mutual respect between City Hall and the CPD.

Editorial

Editorial

As Waller put it, “We must rebuild trust and we must rebuild morale in the department. We can and we will do both.”

We hope he will also plant the seeds of change for Chicago to move forward, in a substantial way, on policing reform.

Give a fresh face the inside track

However successful Waller ultimately turns out to be, we can’t help but think that real reform simply will not happen without new blood: A superintendent with no existing ties or loyalties to a department that, according to independent monitors, has been dragging its feet on implementing mandates outlined in the federal consent decree.

The Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability, the civilian-led panel charged with sending three superintendent candidates to Johnson for his final selection, has begun a nationwide search and will present its selections by mid-July 14.

We hope Johnson and the commission keep the bigger picture in mind and cast a wide net to find the best person to implement reform, build community trust and bring a 21st century approach to policing in Chicago.

Out-of-town candidates who have a vision of transformation and can relate to the rank-and-file — whose jobs are the toughest — ought to get the inside track over CPD veterans.

“He (or she) doesn’t know Chicago,” should not be a deal-breaker. Candidates with the right attitude, energy and big-city experience can overcome that.

Chicagoans are ready for a new approach to public safety and policing, as are most Americans, according to a 2022 Gallup poll.

Johnson has shown that he’s ready for a new approach, too. Maybe that starts with a fresh face to be top cop.

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