Search firm hired to find Chicago’s permanent police superintendent

The Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability, Chicago’s fledgling civilian oversight panel, has until July 14 to give three finalists to Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson, who can pick one or ask for three more.

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David Brown speaks to reporters in April 2020 after Mayor Lori Lightfoot nominated him to be Chicago’s police superintendent.

David Brown speaks to reporters in April 2020 after Mayor Lori Lightfoot nominated him to be Chicago’s police superintendent. The next superintendent will be chosen by Lightfoot’s successor, Brandon Johnson.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

A search firm specializing in law enforcement will lead the nationwide search for Chicago’s permanent police superintendent — a search with a fast turnaround, May 7 application deadline.

The Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability, Chicago’s fledgling civilian oversight commission, announced Wednesday it has hired Public Sector Search & Consulting.

Over the past five years, the firm that “works exclusively on searches for police executives” has spearheaded “more than 50 searches” — 18 in “major U.S. cities,” officials said. The Chicago search will be “led by two retired police chiefs.”

Public Sector Search & Consulting is currently hunting for an assistant chief and deputy chief in Seattle; police chiefs in Ithaca, N.Y., Steamboat Springs, Colo., and St. Joseph, Mo.; and an assistant chief in Bellevue, Wash., according to the firm’s website.

The search for a permanent replacement for newly-departed Chicago police Supt. David Brown was listed under “Coming Soon.” Also on that list: searches for police chiefs in Louisville, Ky., and Forest Grove, Ore., and a division chief in Wheat Ridge, Colo.

Gary Peterson, president, chief executive officer and founder of Public Sector Search & Consulting, is a former police chief in Martinez, Calif. Trish Peterson, the firm’s co-founder and executive vice president of operations, is a former trial attorney with the San Francisco Bay Area district attorney’s office.

Also on the leadership team are senior consultants Mark Helms, retired police chief of Lodi, Calif.; Justin Doll, former police chief of Anchorage, Alaska; Kenton Buckner, former police chief in Syracuse, N.Y., and Little Rock, Ark.; and Dr. Joseph Lestrange, retired division chief of Homeland Security Investigations.

A press release announcing the firm’s hiring did not say what the company would be paid to “develop a comprehensive search strategy, identify potential candidates and manage the search process.”

Interested applicants are asked to submit a “comprehensive resume, compelling cover letter and a list of five professional references” to superintendentsearch@cityofchicago.org.

The commission has until July 14 to forward the names of three finalists to Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson, who can choose from among those nominees or reject all three and request three more names.

Applicants were assured the commission would “make every effort to maintain confidentiality” before publicly identifying three finalists.

The decision to request nothing more than a “comprehensive resume, compelling cover letter” and five professional references is a marked change from previous searches.

In 2015, a Chicago Police Board led by then-President Lori Lightfoot authorized an application that included eight essay questions.

Those questions went to the heart of the crisis confronting Chicago in the wake of what then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel had called a “systematic breakdown” leading to the “totally avoidable” fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald by Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke, who eventually was convicted of second-degree murder.

For example, candidates back then 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 that message gets “articulated to the police force and executed” all the way down to officers on the beat.

Another question was on “highly publicized issues involving use of force by police officers” in Chicago and around the nation.

Candidates were 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 propose to confront the “significant distrust” between citizens and police in Chicago.

The detailed questionnaire and the three finalists it produced ended up moot.

Emanuel rejected all three finalists and went around the Police Board to anoint insider Eddie Johnson as superintendent. Johnson was a chief of patrol who hadn’t even applied for the top job.

Contributing: Tom Schuba


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