Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson’s team moving quickly to find interim police superintendent

Those likely to be in running to replace departing interim Supt. Eric Carter include three former members of CPD’s leadership team.

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New evidence technicians take an oath during the Chicago Police Department’s graduation and promotion ceremony on Tuesday Aug. 9, 2022.

New evidence technicians take an oath during the Chicago Police Department’s graduation and promotion ceremony in August.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson’s transition team is moving fast to find a replacement or a leadership team to take over the Chicago Police Department on an interim basis.

Acting CPD Supt. Eric Carter announced last week that he will be stepping down May 15, inauguration day for Johnson and the new City Council.

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Among those likely under consideration to replace Carter — at least until Johnson chooses a permanent superintendent — are three newly departed members of the CPD’s leadership team: former 1st Deputy Supt. Anthony Riccio, former Chief of Detectives Brendan Deenihan and former Chief of Counterterrorism Ernest Cato.

Long shot possibilities include: Leo Schmitz, former director of the Illlinois State Police and CPD deputy chief now serving as Cook County’s director of public safety; former Interim Supt. Charlie Beck, a former Los Angeles police chief; and former Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson.

Anthony Riccio, then first deputy superintendent of the Chicago Police Department, sat down for an interview with Sun-Times in July 2020.

Anthony Riccio, then 1st deputy superintendent of the Chicago Police Department, sat down for an interview with Sun-Times in July 2020.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Riccio now serves as director of public safety for Monterrey Security. He told the Sun-Times last month he was not interested in the permanent job, but would agree to hold down the fort on an interim basis.

Beck told the Sun-Times he would not want to return as interim superintendent if it produced “the same results as last time.” Beck was referring to the massive reorganization he ordered during his five-month stint as interim superintendent that was dismantled by his successor, David Brown.

Cook County Sheriff’s Office’s Chief of Police Leo Schmitz at a press conference in January at the 7th District police station in the Englewood neighborhood.

Cook County Sheriff’s Office’s Chief of Police Leo Schmitz attends a news conference in January at the the city’s Englewood district police station.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Deenihan could not be reached. Cato, who abruptly resigned last fall, declined to comment.

Cato was a finalist in the search that culminated in Lightfoot’s selection of Brown, a retired Dallas police chief. Cato’s name surfaced recently as an early favorite in the search for a permanent superintendent during a public hearing conducted by the Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability. The interim civilian review panel is expected to forward the names of three finalists to the new mayor in mid-July.

Ernest Cato III, then-chief of the Chicago Police Department’s Bureau of Counterterrorism, at ceremony at Navy Pier in March 2022.

Ernest Cato III, then chief of the Chicago Police Department’s Bureau of Counterterrorism, attends a CPD promotion ceremony at Navy Pier in March 2022.

Pat Nabong / Sun-Times

Jason Lee, a senior adviser to Brandon Johnson’s mayoral campaign and transition team, refused to discuss specific names under consideration by the mayor-elect.

Lee said only there are “a lot of really good police leaders in this city who have formerly worked at different law enforcement agencies,” including CPD.

“This is an important decision that has significant impact on public safety for the city. It’s a decision that we’re being very thoughtful and careful about. We also want to be able to communicate this in short order to the city,” Lee said.

“We’ll come up with a leadership team that reflects Chicago, but most importantly has the complementary skill sets to manage the police department in a way that is effective for the city. ... There are a lot of different permutations being considered.”

Brendan Deenihan speaks at a news conference in May 2022.

Brendan Deenihan, then chief of detectives of the Chicago Police Department, speaks at a news conference in May 2022.

Brian Rich/Sun-Times file photo

Lee was asked whether the interim superintendent could be a candidate for the permanent job.

“The commission has to do its work,” he said. “It’s hard to dictate that. So we want someone who’s prepared to serve solely in an interim capacity. ... There’s a lot of people who, that’s all they have the stomach for anyway. They’ve done their time, but they’re willing to come in for a short period of time and do the work.”

Lightfoot fired Eddie Johnson after accusing the superintendent she inherited of “lying to me and lying to the public” about the circumstances surrounding an October 2019 drinking and driving incident that culminated in Johnson being found asleep at the wheel of his running police SUV near his Bridgeport home.

Charlie Beck in April 2020, as he ended his tenure as interim superintendent of the Chicago Police Department.

Charlie Beck in April 2020, as he ended his tenure as interim superintendent of the Chicago Police Department. Flanking him are Mayor Lori Lightfoot and David Brown, Lightfoot’s choice for the superintendent’s job.

Annie Costabile/Sun-Times

Inspector General Joe Ferguson’s report on the incident detailed an elaborate police cover-up by seven of the former superintendent’s underlings. Among those disciplined was Johnson’s driver, Cynthia Donald, who had spent hours drinking with him at a downtown bar before he was found sleeping in the SUV.

Donald sued Johnson and the city, claiming the fired superintendent subjected her to more than three years of sexual assault and harassment. She accused Johnson of repeatedly raping her in his office at police headquarters. Johnson emphatically denied the allegations.

“I don’t care where I go in this city, this city has certainly supported me and shown me a lot of love. So I don’t think there’s many people out there that are really concerned with that. I’ll put it like that,” Johnson said Monday.

“I did 31 years with the police department. ... If you look at my career over the years, there were no blemishes or anything. I am human, and I did make a mistake. I own that mistake. ... But I don’t think one night of misjudgment should define my career. And I’m not going to let that define me.”

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Police Supt. Eddie Johnson in summer 2019.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CPD Supt. Eddie Johnson in summer 2019.

Fran Spielman/Sun-Times

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