Lori Lightfoot: I don’t want to be CPD superintendent

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Chicago Police Board President Lori Lightfoot said the next superintendent of the Chicago Police Department needs to have experience as a police officer. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Police Board President Lori Lightfoot said Wednesday she is neither qualified to be Chicago’s next police superintendent nor interested in replacing fired Supt. Garry McCarthy.

“I’m not going to pull a Dick Cheney and say I’m looking for a candidate, then nominate myself,” Lightfoot said of Cheney, who led the search for President George W. Bush’s running mate, only to have Bush choose Cheney.

“We have a range of highly qualified people who have applied for the position of superintendent. I’m confident that our next superintendent is in the group of applicants. It’s not a job that I ever sought and not a job I will seek. I’m perfectly comfortable being a lawyer. My job as Police Board president is to identify qualified candidates, and that’s what I plan to do. I will not be among them.”

For weeks, City Hall sources have been whispering about the possibility that Lightfoot, who is leading the Police Board search for a new superintendent, could become a candidate herself.

On Wednesday, Chicago Sun-Times columnist Michael Sneed lifted the veil on the behind-the-scenes speculation.

Sneed wrote that “bets were flying among top cop circles” that Lightfoot, who is also co-chairing Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Commission on Police Accountability, might end up being a “solution” to Emanuel’s police problem.

The mayor is determined to choose an African-American who can lead the Police Department through a federal civil rights investigation and rebuild public trust shattered by the mayor’s handling of the Laquan McDonald shooting video.

Sneed noted that Lightfoot is a former federal prosecutor and a former finalist for U.S. attorney who once ran the Police Department’s Office of Professional Standards before it was severed from the Police Department and renamed the Independent Police Review Authority. Her column further noted that the $260,044-a-year job need not be filled by a police officer.

University of California at Berkeley criminologist O.W. Wilson was hired by former Mayor Richard J. Daley to oversee police reforms triggered by the cops-as-robbers scandal in the Summerdale police district, only to become Chicago’s civilian police superintendent.

Former FBI agent Jody Weis was not a police officer either before being tapped by former Mayor Richard M. Daley to restore public confidence in the Police Department shaken by the video played around the world of a burly off-duty cop beating a diminutive female bartender.

But Lightfoot insisted Wednesday she has no interest in following the lead of Wilson and Weis.

“As a baseline qualification, we have to have somebody who has extensive experience in law enforcement — someone who’s been out on the streets as a police officer and understands the breadth, stress, exhilaration and challenges of that job. Those are my bare minimum qualifications,” she said.

“I understand there are some who are thinking about a different model. Butmy view is, the leadership of the Police Department needs to be someone with actual policing experience. And that’s not me.”

Last week, Emanuel defended the $350-an-hour fee he has agreed to pay former Philadelphia Police chief Charles Ramsey to help guide the Chicago Police Department through the federal civil rights investigation and ruled out Ramsey replacing McCarthy.

“Ramsey’s been clear that, after D.C. and Philly, he doesn’t want the job. You don’t ask somebody who doesn’t want the job. This is too big and important a job,” the mayor said then of Ramsey, a finalist twice before who is not one of the 39 candidates to enter the superintendent sweepstakes this time around.

Sources said the Police Board has winnowed the list of 39 applicants to a select group that will be the subject of exhaustive background checks conducted by an outside firm. Those that pass muster will be summoned for in-person interviews.

The Police Board still hopes to forward the names of three finalists to Emanuel by the end of the month. The mayor must either choose Chicago’s next police superintendent from among those three names or send the Police Board back to the drawing board to start the search all over again. That’s what Richard M. Daley did before choosing Weis.

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