Emanuel’s opinion trumps all in choosing new ‘top cop’

 The next superintendent of the Chicago Police Department was set to be named by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and confirmed by the City Council soon after the Police Board’s recommendations were made public March 17. 

However, in a sadly unsurprising move, Emanuel decided those candidates were not up to par and appointed his own choice, Eddie Johnson, as interim superintendent.

Johnson, who has worked for CPD for 27 years, was recently promoted to chief of patrol and cited his support for previous interim superintendent, John Escalante, as the reason he did not apply, according to a March 28 Chicago Tribune article.

Johnson has reportedly received support from the black and Latino caucuses in City Council and support from anti-violence group CeaseFire Illinois, according to the Tribune. 

Johnson has expressed his commitment to working with community members and advocates and understands the current climate of the department, according to the Tribune article. 

The mayor is required by law to pick from the recommendations for superintendent from the Police Board, which consists of citizens that he also appoints, but he can appoint someone on an interim basis. 

Emanuel’s actions make the board’s recommendations seem irrelevant. He should not be allowed to disregard other’s opinions on such a crucial decision.

Johnson will hold the position until the board decides on a new short list. By promoting Johnson, Emanuel is basically advocating for Johnson to be on the next list so he can receive the permanent position.

Some Chicagoans are skeptical of Emanuel’s choice and the selection process. There is already distrust of Emanuel with any decision he makes, so this decision faces more scrutiny than usual.

A group of citizens frustrated with the process by which Johnson got the job protested his first days in office, as reported March 29 by Chicagoland Television.

With abuses of power, like the delayed release of the footage of the shooting of Laquan McDonald, the CPD and Emanuel face trying to regain the trust of the community and the process of this appointment suggests that Emanuel still just wants to do what he thinks is best.

An inside pick with connections to the black community could help rebuild lost trust in CPD. However, the board recommended two people from outside the department and Illinois. 

One of them, Cedric Alexander, was unquestionably the front-runner.  Alexander, public safety director of DeKalb County in Georgia, has an extensive track record of advocacy including testifying before Congress on issues regarding police and communities. However, Alexander publicly criticized Chicago and Emanuel in a Dec. 15, 2015 CNN editorial.  

A March 26 Chicago Sun-Times story suggests Alexander might have ruined his chances by telling a reporter in Atlanta he thought he had the job. Another factor cited for not choosing Alexander was pressure from black and Latino aldermen, according to a March 28 Tribune story. 

By choosing Johnson rather than one of the board’s recommendations, it would seem that Emanuel has no respect for any opinions other than his own. However, his true motivations are hard to know.

Johnson could end up doing valuable work as superintendent, but Emanuel’s ability to buck the system is troubling. If Emanuel truly wants to regain the public’s trust, he cannot continue to show such a blatant disregard for the governmental process.