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Laura Washington: Emanuel outfoxes Council on top cop pick

Mayor Rahm Emanuel r the Chicago City Council meeting. Wednesday, March 16, 2016. Brian Jackson/ For the Sun-Times

They forgot that Mayor Rahm Emanuel is a former ballet dancer. He just pirouetted around his adversaries in the debate over who will be Chicago’s next top cop.

Emanuel has chosen Eddie Johnson, the Chicago Police Department’s chief of patrol, as its new superintendent, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

Nearly four months ago, the Chicago Police Board launched a national search for the city’s next police superintendent. On March 17 it recommended three finalists to Mayor Emanuel:  Chicago Deputy Police Supt. Eugene Williams, an African-American department veteran who oversees the agency’s Bureau of Support Services; Cedric Alexander, an African-American and public safety director in DeKalb County, Ga., outside Atlanta; and Anne Kirkpatrick, a white woman and the former police chief of Spokane, Wash.

OPINION

Then the Chicago City Council’s black and Hispanic aldermen jumped into the fray.

The council’s 17-member Black Caucus announced it wants to interview all the finalists and hold public hearings on the candidates, and that they strongly prefer a Police Department insider, appearing to favor Williams.

“We want to hear from all candidates right now, before a decision is made,” caucus chairman and 6th Ward Ald. Roderick Sawyer told reporters Thursday. “We believe a local police veteran who understands the African-American experience in Chicago would be the best able to restore justice and safety in our city.”

The caucus threatened to withhold its votes to confirm Emanuel’s choice if the mayor did not give them more input.

The Hispanic Caucus was steamed that interim Supt. John Escalante, a Latino, was excluded from the finalist list. They also called for hearings.

A year ago, the City Council unanimously approved a $5 million settlement in the Laquan McDonald case, few questions asked.

It’s nice to know that the furor over the fatal police shooting of McDonald has stiffened the backbone of their elected officials.

Emanuel’s selection of Johnson may be a surprise, but it’s no shocker that once again, Emanuel has outfoxed his adversaries.

The law requires the mayor to pick from finalists the Police Board gives him.  Johnson didn’t even apply for the top job.

The mayor just danced away.

Emanuel “plans to meet the letter of the law” by rejecting the original finalists, appoint Johnson to replace John Escalante as interim superintendent, then ask the Police Board to conduct a second search, the Sun-Times’ Fran Spielman and Frank Main reported.

Johnson will be named a “new” finalist, and voila! Emanuel hands him the job.

And it is no revelation that Emanuel craves and demands iron control.  He is not about to let a measly law or a bunch of whining aldermen get in his way.

According to early reviews, Johnson, who was promoted by both Escalante and former Supt. Jody Weis, offers a first-rate resume and has cultivated strong community relations.

I’m wary.  Johnson has been in the Chicago Police Department for 27 years, rising to its highest levels.  The same Chicago Police Department that has been riven by police brutality, officer misconduct and rampant crime for decades.

Chicago needs and deserves a police leader not tainted by a culture of violence and disrespect.  Anyone who was part of that playbook is too compromised to remake the game.

And Johnson did not even apply for the top job.  Either he didn’t want it, or the fix was already in.

One thing is for sure.  Johnson had better start taking dancing lessons.