Chicago’s interim top cop fills leadership roles before departure — some have troubled records

Two commanders chosen by interim Supt. Fred Waller for leadership roles have been accused of fostering a hostile work environment, and two others have been named in costly lawsuits.

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Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson looks on as his choice for interim Chicago Police superintendent, Chief of Operations Fred Waller, speaks during a news conference in River West in May.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Chicago’s acting top cop has announced broad changes to the department’s leadership team, filling high-ranking positions before his replacement is expected to be confirmed.

Interim Supt. Fred Waller told department members that the staffing overhaul was effective Friday, but sources said some of his picks had already been installed.

Some of Waller’s choices have troubled records. Two commanders have been accused of fostering a hostile work environment, and two others have been named in costly lawsuits.

A fifth commander is closely tied to the interim superintendent.

A police spokesperson declined to answer questions about the staffing changes on Tuesday, saying “we do not discuss internal personnel deliberations.”

In his email last week, Waller said “these leaders bring decades of experience to their new positions, and I am confident they will continue leading with the same dedication they had on their first day as police officers.”

Waller made 23 changes in all, promoting three department members to commander, shifting nine existing commanders to new posts and bumping up six lieutenants to captain, among other moves.

The reorganization was announced weeks after Mayor Brandon Johnson picked Counterterrorism Chief Larry Snelling to serve as superintendent following a lengthy search.

Former interim Supt. Charlie Beck oversaw a more ambitious shakeup of the command staff after Mayor Lori Lightfoot gave him free rein to revamp the department.

Those moves were announced in January 2020 — two months before Lightfoot named former Dallas Police Chief David Brown as Beck’s replacement and nearly three months before Brown took control of the department.

Beck named new chiefs, deputy chiefs and commanders, among others. Snelling and two department members on Waller’s list were among those promoted.

Two commanders on the list were moved out of the community policing office last year amid complaints from staffers.

Galen Caldwell, now the commander of the first deputy superintendent’s office, was accused of referring to a secretary as a “b----” during a staff meeting and calling another woman “sexy” while he was their commander, sources previously told the Sun-Times.

Carlin Morse, promoted from captain to commander of the Austin District, was accused of changing clothes in his cubicle and aggressively grabbing a female co-worker’s arm, the sources said.

They both remain under investigation, the spokesperson said.

Other newly promoted commanders have lengthy disciplinary records and have been targeted in lawsuits that resulted in costly settlements.

Brian Kinnane, the new Morgan Park District commander, has been named in at least three suits that cost the city nearly $2.8 million.

The largest payout stemmed from a federal lawsuit filed in 2014 by Aretha Simmons, who claimed Kinnane led a no-knock raid of her Humboldt Park home the previous year that resulted in her being brutalized while she was handcuffed.

One of the officers allegedly aimed a gun at Simmons’ 3-year-old daughter’s chest while police executed a search warrant that included the name of a man who didn’t live at the home but was arrested outside.

The City Council approved a $2.5 million settlement in June 2018.

Kinnane has been the subject of at least 33 disciplinary complaints, none of which have been sustained, according to a database compiled by the Invisible Institute. He previously worked as a tactical lieutenant in the Morgan Park District.

Joshua Wallace was assigned to commander of the Criminal Networks Group, a unit that oversees joint narcotics and gang operations between the counterterrorism bureau and federal and local law enforcement agencies.

Wallace has been named in at least six lawsuits totaling $486,000. The largest and most recent settlement stemmed from a federal lawsuit filed by Samuel Brown, Deangelo Adams and Ernest Smith, who claimed they were beaten and falsely arrested during a family gathering in Auburn Gresham in March 2013.

Alderpersons approved a $285,000 settlement in December 2017.

Wallace, whom Beck previously promoted to commander of the Wentworth District, has faced at least 45 complaints, according to the Invisible Institute. None have been sustained.

Waller also promoted Melvin Branch, an officer with whom he apparently has close ties.

Branch and Waller were named together in a federal lawsuit in October 2007 alleging that officers unlawfully searched a family’s Auburn Gresham home in search of a person who had robbed another cop’s home.

Waller denied entering the home, and the counts against him were dismissed before trial. A jury ultimately ruled in favor of the city, and an appeal was quickly dropped.

The superintendent also appeared to lean on Branch when Waller was accused of attacking a woman in March 2006. Waller denied any wrongdoing, and told investigators that he was “constantly on the telephone with Officer Melvin Branch” on the afternoon he was accused of choking and pushing the woman, according to South Side Weekly.

Waller promoted Branch from lieutenant in the gang investigation division to commander of the Grand Crossing District.

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