By David Heinzmann
The Chicago Tribune
CHICAGO — Jody P. Weis took over Friday as Chicago's police superintendent, accepting the seemingly contradictory tasks of showing the public he is serious about rooting out bad cops while convincing the department's 13,000 officers that he has their back.
The first outsider to lead the department in more than 40 years, Weis was sworn in Friday and then held his first news conference, facing several questions about the credibility of the department in the wake of misconduct scandals.
The career FBI agent and supervisor said he is considering how to improve accountability, including a panel that would review police shootings to see whether they could have been avoided by better training or different procedures.
"You may have a shooting that is clearly within department guidelines, wholly justified, but you could still look at ways that maybe we could have done something different, through a training perspective, and prevented those actions from having to be taken," he said.
Weis' major internal task will be winning over police veterans as he learns how to negotiate the politics of the sprawling department. Some police officials and officers are skeptical of Mayor Richard Daley's choice of an outsider.
Acknowledging the delicacy of his outsider status, Weis said Friday that he will wear a police uniform only on ceremonial occasions. He came to the decision after discussing it with Fraternal Order of Police President Mark Donahue.
However, Weis said he is considering other outsiders, in addition to top veteran commanders, for the critical post of first deputy superintendent. On Friday, Deputy Supt. Hiram Grau was appointed to the post temporarily.
Echoing Daley, Weis called the recent scandals in the Special Operations Section and videotaped incidents of off-duty officers beating bar patrons the work of a few bad apples and not a systemic problem in the department as some critics have alleged.
He said he would have no tolerance for lying, corruption and brutality, but he also tried to reassure the rank-and-file that he understands officers are sometimes put in dangerous circumstances calling for difficult decisions.
"I will have their back," Weis said. "I will give the officers the benefit of the doubt 100 percent of the time, as long as they are doing their job the right way."
Copyright 2008 Chicago Tribune
Chicago's new top cop seeks confidence of public, cops