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Emanuel spent weekend interviewing 3 top cop finalists

Anne Kirkpatrick, who had been in charge of the Chicago Police Department's new Bureau of Professional Standards, is leaving to become police chief in Oakland, Calif., according to media reports. | File photo

Mayor Rahm Emanuel spent a chunk of last weekend meeting with the three finalists for Chicago Police superintendent amid reports that front-runner Cedric Alexander got glowing recommendations from two key sources: former Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey and former Chicago Supt. Terry Hillard.

The meetings with all three finalists took place in Chicago. The candidates are Alexander, the former practicing clinical psychologist currently serving as public safety director in DeKalb County, Georgia, outside Atlanta; Anne Kirkpatrick, retired police chief of Spokane, Washington; and Eugene Williams, a deputy Chicago police superintendent who oversees the Bureau of Support Services.

Alexander is the overwhelming front-runner. City Hall sources have said they expect the mayor to choose Alexander or no one from the list of finalists selected by the Police Board.

Hillard and Ramsey have both given Alexander, an outspoken CNN commentator on policing issues, their endorsement.

“Hillard and Ramsey both say Alexander is dynamic, very charismatic and smart, very much his own person. That’s how Ramsey is, too,” said a mayoral adviser, who asked not to be named.

“They both say Alexander is innovative and very much a student of modern policing. They say he’s strong with the community and strong with the rank and file. It sounds ideal,” the adviser said.

Emanuel respects Ramsey’s opinion so much he agreed to pay the now-retired Washington-turned-Philadelphia police chief $350 an hour to guide the Chicago Police Department through a federal civil rights investigation triggered by the police shooting of Laquan McDonald.

Ramsey has visited Chicago Police headquarters, where he met with the department’s command staff and with community leaders.

City Hall sources said they expect Emanuel to hold follow-up meetings with all three finalists. If the mayor rejects the candidates, the Police Board must conduct another nationwide search.

“The most important thing is the working relationship between the mayor and his police superintendent. They have to click,” the mayoral adviser said.

One source said a decision could come as early as Thursday.

In 1998, former Mayor Richard M. Daley spent 10 hours meeting with Hillard and Ramsey before choosing Hillard in a surprise move that prompted Ramsey to leave his native Chicago for Washington.

Ramsey and Alexander served together on President Barack Obama’s 21st Century Policing Commission.

A former deputy police superintendent credited with pioneering Chicago’s community policing program, Ramsey was Emanuel’s first choice for the job that ultimately went to now-fired Police Supt. Garry McCarthy. Ramsey would have been Emanuel’s first choice to replace McCarthy if only Ramsey had been willing to entertain another full-time, big-city policing job.

Emanuel has such high regard for Hillard, he asked the former Chicago Police superintendent to hold down the fort after Jody Weis resigned and before the newly elected mayor chose McCarthy in 2011.

Neither Hillard nor Ramsey could be reached for comment.

Emanuel signaled his intention to make a quick decision after receiving the three names last week.

“Chicago is eager to get going. The police department is eager to get going,” the mayor said then.

Fraternal Order of Police President Dean Angelo has said morale among rank-and-file officers has never been lower. Every cop is afraid of being the subject of the next YouTube video, he said.

In his 22-page questionnaire to the Police Board, Alexander said “dysfunctional morale or bad organizational attitude starts at the very top and percolates downward.” He plans to improve morale, in part, by “telling the truth, telling it clearly and telling it publicly.”

“By telling the truth and acting transparently, I convey to my entire staff — both sworn and civilian — that I have no hidden motives or secret agenda. I serve the department, which serves the public. I do not serve any other ‘special’ or ‘private’ or ‘political’ interests,” he wrote.

Demanding the same from the troops, Alexander wrote, “They cannot make secret agreements on the side — to protect themselves or their buddies from discipline, to wink at internal infractions or to sweep critical incidents under the rug. . . . A deceptive department benefits no one. . . . I tell my officers that lying is wrong, but even worse, lying puts us all in danger. A cover-up can be deadly. All corruption in any organization beings with lies — or even a single lie.”

McCarthy earned hero status during the 2012 NATO Summit for leading from the front and defusing a potentially volatile confrontation with Black Bloc provocateurs at Michigan and Cermak. In the questionnaire, Alexander outlined his philosophy.

“How do I feel about militarization? When the approach and the equipment are needed, departments should not hesitate to deploy them. But the occasions of real need are few,” he wrote.

“When the need is not clear cut, discretion is required. Rather than use a Bearcat to intimidate demonstrators exercising their First Amendment rights, deploy conventionally equipped officers out front — and keep the tactical vehicle parked discreetly around the corner,” he wrote. “When police act like the Redcoats at the Boston Massacre, citizens have both the right and responsibility to hold them accountable.”