Acting Chicago Police Supt. Eric Carter announces retirement amid nationwide search for next top cop

Carter plans to retire May 15, two months after he took over the police department from David Brown — and the day Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson is sworn into office.

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Chicago police interim Supt. Eric Carter reacts during a press conference at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in the Streeterville nieghborhood, Wednesday, April 5, 2023, after a 27th floor unit in the 1200 block of North DuSable Lake Shore Drive caught fire, killing Lt. Jan Tchoryk, who was a member of the fire department for 26 years, in the staircase of the building as he responded to the fire, according to Chicago Fire Department Commissioner Annette Nance-Holt. | Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Interim Chicago Police Supt. Eric Carter announced Thursday that he is retiring from the department May 15.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Interim Chicago Police Supt. Eric Carter announced Thursday he plans to resign while a newly formed commission searches for his predecessor’s permanent replacement.

Carter, 57, will step down May 15, just two months after he took over the Chicago Police Department from Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s hand-picked superintendent, David Brown, whose tenure was marked by a historic spike in violent crime, low morale and missteps on the department’s arduous road to reform.

The announcement comes as the Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability is conducting a nationwide search for candidates to replace Brown, whom Carter served under as the department’s second-ranking official.

“To the residents of Chicago, law enforcement agencies, clergy, community leaders and the many organizations who work each day beside CPD, thank you,” Carter said in a statement. “Your continued partnership strengthens public safety daily across our great city.”

It’s unclear who will replace Carter on an interim basis because his replacement as first deputy superintendent hasn’t been announced. The decision will likely fall to Brandon Johnson, who will be inaugurated as mayor on the same day Carter retires.

In an email to department members, Carter said he told Brown that he planned to retire late last year and has since informed Lightfoot and Johnson. Carter’s wife retired as a police captain in March 2022.

Carter committed to working with Johnson “to ensure that our department continues to deliver transformational service to our residents and visitors throughout the summer season” as the search for the next top cop continues.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot smiles as Chicago Police Department First Deputy Supt. Eric Carter salutes a new police officer during a graduation ceremony at the Aon Grand Ballroom at Navy Pier, Tuesday morning, March 7, 2023.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot smiles as Chicago Police Department 1st Deputy Supt. Eric Carter salutes a new police officer during a graduation ceremony at Navy Pier in March.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

A U.S. Marine Corps veteran, Carter rose through the police department’s ranks to become interim superintendent. He previously served in a range of high-ranking roles, including chief of the counterterrorism bureau, deputy chief of the organized crime bureau and commander of the South Chicago and Gresham districts.

“Looking back from my early days in Englewood to now, working hand in hand with every community in the city of Chicago, I will always treasure those experiences and memories,” Carter wrote in the email.

“To the members of our command staff that have worked tirelessly beside me throughout the many years, thank you. We could not have made a difference without working together to address the community and the city’s ever-evolving needs. I am proud we’ve moved this city forward, and I am confident that our impact will continue to be felt citywide.”

Shortly after Carter announced his retirement, Lightfoot congratulated him on his 30-year career with the department.

“As a Marine, husband and father, he has given the full measure of himself in service to the residents of this city and the officers under his command,” Lightfoot said in a statement. “I am thankful for his dedicated commitment to our city and for leading the brave law enforcement officers who keep us safe. I wish him the best as he transitions to his next chapter.”

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Chicago Police Supt. David Brown (left) and 1st Deputy Supt. Eric Carter leave after a November 2021 news conference at Chicago Police Department headquarters.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Carter’s career hasn’t been without controversy.

After the fatal shooting of Officer Ella French in August 2021, he infuriated grieving officers who gathered at the Cook County medical examiner’s office for a traditional sendoff with a playing of bagpipes. Ignoring that sacred ritual, he impatiently declared: “We don’t have 20 minutes for this s---.”

“We’re not waiting on the bagpipes,” Carter was heard saying on a recording. “Go ahead and get the vehicle inside.”

Carter was also at the center of the bungled response to the chaotic gatherings downtown last weekend that left two teenagers shot, drawing national media attention. Downtown Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) told the Sun-Times that Carter and Chief of Patrol Brian McDermott got into a shouting match as the situation devolved Saturday night.

“A lot of aldermen were upset about [Carter’s] approach to what happened this past weekend,” Ald. Scott Waguespack, chairman of the City Council’s Finance Committee, told the Sun-Times. “They made themselves very clear that they needed to see leadership and one person in charge as opposed to what they assumed were too many cooks in the kitchen.”

Waguespack added: “I know we have good leaders within the department. I’d really like to see them put in a place where they can prosper and make sure that downtown and all of our neighborhoods are taken care of.”

The commission searching for the next superintendent began accepting applications this month and will ultimately present three candidates to Johnson by mid-July. Johnson can then pick one of those finalists or request another list of three.

Anthony Driver, the commission’s president, said he doesn’t expect Carter’s retirement to have any impact on the search process.

“[Carter’s] retirement coincides with the mayor leaving office,” Driver said. “I’m sure that Mayor-elect Johnson will have someone interim lined up and ready to go.”

He said there have been “nuanced” and “holistic” conversations about public safety during the commission’s first two public meetings, organized to inform the decision-making process.

“I’m currently blind to who has applied,” he said. “But I have a good feeling about us having some strong applicants.”

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