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THE WATCHDOGS: White men get biggest share of police promotions

Sun-Times file photo

Despite decades of legal battles and special efforts to increase the number of minorities and women promoted to high-ranking jobs in the Chicago Police Department, white men have gotten more than half of those promotions since 2006.

White men got more than 61 percent of the 913 promotions that were based strictly on test scores to fill the positions of detective, sergeant or lieutenant over the past 10 years, department records obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times show.

During the same period, police superintendents also filled 396 detective, sergeant, lieutenant and captain slots with so-called merit promotions — a system Mayor Richard M. Daley created two decades ago to promote more minorities and women. And white men got 40 percent of those promotions, more than any other racial or gender group, the records show.

Altogether, the police department has filled more than 55 percent of these vacancies since 2006 by promoting white men, a pattern that began under Daley and has continued under Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

As is true in many cities, Chicago’s police department doesn’t mirror the city’s population. Blacks and Hispanics make up two-thirds of the city’s population, while 57 percent of the sworn police officers are white men and women.

The lack of diversity has been an issue for more than 40 years. It erupted again after video showing the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald by a white police officer, Jason Van Dyke, led Emanuel to dump his white police superintendent, Garry McCarthy, on Dec. 1, later replacing him with Eddie Johnson, an African American who was one of McCarthy’s top deputies.

The McDonald video led to an ongoing investigation of the police department’s practices and policies by the U.S. Department of Justice, which has asked the city for “all policies concerning the recruitment, hiring and promotion of CPD employees.”

“Too often, white cops are sent in to neighborhoods they don’t understand,” says Patricia L. Hill, a retired Chicago cop who served as president of the African American Police League until it disbanded in 2012 and now teaches criminal justice at Northeastern Illinois University. “So many white police officers had never come in contact with black people until they became police officers. They don’t know the culture.

“The promotional issue has been an issue for a very long time,” Hill says. “We’ve always had to fight for our jobs. No one has the will to say, ‘OK, white folks, we know it’s not this generation’s fault, but we’re going to have to hire less white folks.’ It’s not going to happen.

“It’s virtually impossible for us to reach parity because there’s nothing to enforce it.”

Johnson believes the department “should reflect the city that it serves and, as a result, promote diversity throughout the ranks,” police spokesman Frank Giacamilli says, pointing out the city has recently seen a 13 percent increase in minority job applicants to become a patrol officer. The new superintendent has also ordered “a review of our promotion procedures and policies to ensure that those promoted are held to the highest standards,” Giacamilli says.

The Sun-Times obtained police department data on so-called rank-order promotions based on test scores, as well as merit promotions, to examine how many minorities and women are advancing to four key positions: detective, sergeant, lieutenant and captain.

The records show that the higher the position, the more likely it’s been that it would be filled by a white man.

“It indicates what I think is a bigger, more general problem the Chicago Police Department has: It doesn’t have the kind of career tracking . . . to identify potential leaders,” says Wesley Skogan, a Northwestern University professor who specializes in police issues. “They’re not grooming anybody, much less people who may need a hand up in the grooming department.”

Other key Sun-Times findings regarding promotions since 2006:

• The percentage of white police officers has fallen from 54 percent to 50 percent as the department has shrunk 11 percent. But white officers still get six of every 10 promotions to detective, sergeant, lieutenant and captain.

• Blacks make up 23 percent of all Chicago cops — a number that has steadily declined, leaving the city with 758 fewer black officers than there were in 2006. But African-American officers get only 18 percent of the promotions, most of those through the merit system. Most black women have been promoted on the basis of their test scores, while most black men got merit promotions, following a recommendation from a superior officer.

• Hispanics also hold 23 percent of the department’s jobs, with 319 more Hispanic cops than a decade ago. But Hispanics got slightly fewer than 16 percent of the promotions.

• Women hold slightly more than 22 percent of all police jobs in Chicago but landed only about 17 percent of the promotions during the past decade, mostly based on their test scores. More than half of the women promoted are white.

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“CPD is committed to promoting qualified women at all ranks throughout the department,” Giancamilli says. “Recently, CPD announced the appointment of three women to command staff positions, including Anne Kirkpatrick to serve as chief of the Bureau of Professional Standards. The selection of these women builds on the appointment of Acting Chief Barbara West, who oversees the Bureau of Support Services, which is responsible for the merit promotion process.”

Appointments to such command positions, including deputy chiefs, are made directly by the superintendent and don’t come under the same promotion system for the lower ranks.

Here’s how the promotions since 2006 break down by rank:

• Sergeants made up the bulk of the promotions examined by the Sun-Times. White men got nearly 55 percent of the 659 promotions to sergeant, primarily based on their test scores. Black men got 14 percent, most often by merit promotions, and Hispanic men 12 percent, usually by test scores.

• Detectives accounted for 352 of the promotions, with white men getting 55 percent of those jobs and black and Hispanic men getting 14 percent each.

• Lieutenants — the next step up for sergeants — accounted for 220 promotions. White men landed 56 percent of them, black men 13 percent and Hispanic men 11 percent.

Fourteen black women have been promoted to lieutenant over the past 10 years, including three promoted this year based on test scores. Those three women — including Johnson’s fiancee Nakia Fenner — took part in a study group that is the focus of an investigation by City Hall Inspector General Joseph Ferguson after someone accused the women of cheating. The other women are Lt. Davina Ward and Lt. Maryet Hall, whose husband Al Wysinger is retired from the department’s No. 2 post — first deputy superintendent.

• Captains slots are filled based on applications from lieutenants, which are reviewed by the department’s merit selection board, with the final decision made by the superintendent. No test is required for these promotions. Of the 78 promotions to captain, 46 went to white men, nine to black men and one to a Hispanic man. There were 14 women made captain, half of them white.

The quest for racial parity in the police department dates back generations. In 1973, the Afro-American Police League sued the city in federal court, which resulted in more jobs and promotions for black officers. But the victory was short-lived, Hill says.

Daley tried to address the dearth of minority police officers in 1997 when he created the merit selection system.

The city’s largest police union, the Fraternal Order of Police, opposed merit selection, warning it would become a patronage system allowing high-ranking police officials and City Hall politicians to promote their cronies.

“They created merit so there would be promotions at the discretion of management,” says Skogan. “There’s powerful politicians angling for their favorites. There’s multigenerational police families angling for a relative to get a promotion.

“They will say there are people who don’t do well on tests but are charismatic leaders . . . and we need them, too,” Skogan says. “There are plenty of police departments that don’t have them at all.”

In Chicago, applicants for detective, sergeant and lieutenant must take a basic test to qualify for any promotion. Many also take a second test, required for the rank-order promotions based on scores.

All applicants for detective, sergeant and lieutenant must take a test to qualify for a promotion based on their rank order. The police superintendent can fill 30 percent of the sergeant and lieutenant vacancies and 20 percent of the detective spots through merit selection. Applicants who passed the basic promotion exam and were nominated by a superior officer are eligible for these promotions.

Many top Chicago police officials have gotten merit promotions, among them several current district commanders, including Austin District Commander Dwayne Betts, an African American who got a promotion to lieutenant from McCarthy in 2012 after being nominated by Johnson.

Two years ago, Sgt. Matthew Cline, the son of former Supt. Phil Cline, landed a merit promotion to lieutenant from McCarthy based on a recommendation from Cmdr. Joseph Salemme. Six other cops also got merit promotions based on recommendations from Salemme, who retired last December, avoiding a one-year suspension for his role in the botched homicide case involving David Koschman, who died after he was punched by a Daley nephew, Richard J. “R.J.” Vanecko.

Former Chief of Detectives Constantine “Dean” Andrews — who also retired in December to avoid being fired over the Koschman case — nominated four officers for merit promotions. They included Sgt. Paul Zogg, a white cop who served in the now-disbanded Special Operations Section, some of whose members were accused of kidnapping, robbery and other crimes.

Two years ago, a federal jury ordered Zogg and four other SOS cops to pay $96,000 in punitive damages out of their own pockets to a man who sued them and the city, saying he was framed for cocaine possession. The city was ordered to pay the man an additional $796,000.

Five months ago, interim Supt. John Escalante gave Zogg a merit promotion to detective.

“Sgt. Zogg was cleared . . . of wrongdoing, and he is a decorated member of the U.S. military,” according to Giancamilli, the police spokesman. “All of this information was taken into account during the merit-promotion process.”

Anthony R. Blake, a black officer, got a merit promotion from McCarthy to detective in February 2013 — six years after the city paid $5.2 million to settle a lawsuit that accused Blake of fatally shooting Cornelius Ware, a paraplegic who the police said aimed a gun at him and refused to get out of the car during a traffic stop in 2003.

Blake, who apparently wasn’t charged or disciplined in Ware’s death, had been nominated for a promotion by then-Cmdr. Glenn Evans, who has a lengthy record of abuse complaints. A Cook County judge acquitted Evans in December of aggravated battery and official misconduct after he was accused of shoving a gun into a suspect’s mouth.

The city’s Independent Police Review Authority later recommended that Evans be fired after he was accused of breaking a woman’s eye socket when she refused to be fingerprinted in 2011. Johnson wanted to suspend Evans for 30 days, but the matter was dismissed a few days ago when IPRA determined that the statute of limitations had run out on punishing Evans over that incident.

The police department wouldn’t comment on Blake’s promotion. But Giacamilli said officers “nominated for a merit promotion are done so based upon their supervisors’ belief that they have demonstrated professional leadership skills and abilities that qualify them to be considered for a promotion.

“When officers are being considered for merit, their disciplinary history is reviewed by the [merit] board, where they are reviewed for substantiated instances of misconduct.”