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Police Board wants public input in search for new superintendent

A public meeting is scheduled for next week to get input on the search for a new Chicago Police Department superintendent. | File Photo

Chicagoans will get an opportunity to weigh in on the search for a new police superintendent and their priorities for Garry McCarthy’s replacement — but only if they can jam their thoughts into a two-minute speech.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s revamped Police Board will solicit input from everyday Chicagoans at a two-hour public hearing next week.

It’s part of the uphill battle to restore public trust shattered by the Laquan McDonald shooting video and the more recent fatal shootings by police of 19-year-old Quintonio LeGrier and 55-year-old Bettie Jones.

The public hearing will be held 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Chicago Urban League, 4510 S. Michigan Ave.

Police Board President Lori Lightfoot, who is also co-chairing Emanuel’s Task Force on Police Accountability, will preside over the public hearing. She will be joined by her fellow Police Board members and by Shari Runner, the Chicago Urban League’s interim president and CEO.

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The hearing will be held three days before the Jan. 15 deadline for applying for the $260,004-a-year job.

To garner as much public input as possible, speakers will be limited to two minutes.

“The entire board is completely committed to hearing from the public about the qualities the next superintendent should possess,” Lightfoot was quoted as saying in a press release.

Police Board president Lori Lightfoot says board members are committed to hearing from the public. | Provided photo

“We also view this forum as an important opportunity for residents to share their experiences with the police and provide recommendations for police priorities now and in the future.”

Last month, the Police Board launched a nationwide search for Chicago’s new police superintendent amid concern that the furor over the Laquan McDonald shooting video and a federal civil rights investigation could diminish interest in the job.

The Police Board plans to narrow the list of applicants, then summon roughly 10 semi-finalists for in-person interviews before presenting the names of three finalists to Emanuel by the end of February.

Interested candidates were asked to complete eight essay questions that go the heart of the crisis confronting Chicago after what Emanuel has called a “systematic breakdown” that culminated in the “totally avoidable” police shooting of Laquan McDonald.

For example, candidates were asked to define “accountability in the context of policing” and to identify the “best practices for early-warning systems” for officers whose actions trigger multiple citizen complaints.

They were asked how they “assess and address bias-based policing” and how the message gets “articulated to the police force and executed” all the way down to officers on the beat.

Candidates were also asked to articulate their philosophies on: use of force; investigations regarding use of force, including transparency, timing and independence of investigators versus internal investigations; and “so-called militarization of modern police departments.”

In a multi-part question on community engagement and community policing, candidates were asked how they proposed to confront the “significant distrust” between citizens and police in Chicago.

Now that Emanuel has openly acknowledged that there is a “code of silence” in the Chicago Police Department, candidates were asked how they plan to “incentivize officers” to not only exercise “personal integrity” but to “report misconduct on the part of other officers.”

Last month, Emanuel fired his only police superintendent, arguing that Garry McCarthy had become a “distraction” in the unrelenting furor over the city’s decision to keep the Laquan McDonald shooting video under wraps for more than a year and wait until one week after April 7 mayoral runoff to settle the case for $5 million even before the McDonald family had filed a lawsuit.

The video was released in November — but only after a judge ordered the city to do so.

The U.S. Justice Department subsequently opened a sweeping civil rights investigation that could ultimately lead to a court order and the appointment of a federal monitor similar to the one that rode herd over city hiring for nearly a decade.

Last week’s police shooting of LeGrier and the admittedly “accidental” shooting of Jones added fuel to the political fire.

Two weeks ago, former St. Louis police chief Dan Isom told the Chicago Sun-Times he had been urged to apply for the Chicago job, but said he was more inclined to finish the “significant amount of community work” let to do in the aftermath of the violence in Ferguson, Mo.

Isom refused to identify the Chicago recruiter, except to say the overture did not come from “the police administration or city government.”

City Hall sources said Emanuel is determined to replace McCarthy with an African-American to restore public trust shattered by the Laquan McDonald controversy.

The back-channel overture to Isom shows the search is moving on two fronts — officially, by the Police Board, and unofficially, by sources close to the mayor.

Isom is scheduled to be in Chicago Thursday to participate in a panel on the police scandal sponsored by the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics run by Emanuel’s longtime friend David Axelrod. Emanuel and Axelrod worked together in the Obama White House.

But, he told the Sun-Times he has no meetings scheduled, either with Emanuel or anyone connected with the mayor’s office.