Chicago's search for top cop extended
By Gary Washburn and Angela Rozas
CHICAGO — In a surprise move, Mayor Richard Daley on Thursday rejected the three nominees for police superintendent and asked the Chicago Police Board to continue its search for candidates.
Meanwhile, the Police Department underwent a temporary change in command. Retiring Supt. Philip Cline logged his last day on Thursday and Daley's office announced that First Deputy Supt. Dana Starks had taken over as interim superintendent.
After conducting a two-month nationwide search and considering about 40 applicants, the Police Board in July sent Daley the names of Hiram Grau and Charles Williams, both veterans of Chicago's department who now serve as deputy superintendents, and Thomas Belfiore, a former New York City police commander who leads the Westchester County Department of Public Safety in New York.
The three men "are outstanding police officers who have had distinguished careers in law enforcement," the mayor said in a statement. "But I want to widen the search, so we can be absolutely certain we have the best possible person in this very important job."
"I do think the mayor [had] excellent candidates to choose from," said a surprised Ald. Isaac Carothers (29th), chairman of the City Council's Police and Fire Committee. "Obviously [he] wants additional names, and I am not really sure why. I can't speak for him. Apparently he wants a deeper search."
Daley has never before rejected all three applicants in a finalist pool for superintendent.
One City Hall insider said that none of the three candidates made a strong impression on Daley in interviews, and another said the chances of Grau, Williams or Belfiore eventually landing the job have been dealt a serious blow by Daley's decision to pass on them in the first round.
"How can they stay in consideration?" the source asked.
Attempts to reach the three candidates for comment were unsuccessful.
Demetrius Carney, the Police Board's chairman, who said he found out about Daley's decision Thursday morning, offered a positive spin.
"I think it's good news," he said. "I think it demonstrates that the process works. I think it demonstrates that the board is very independent. I think it demonstrates that the mayor is very serious in terms of who he appoints."
By city ordinance, the civilian Police Board provides the mayor with the names of three candidates when a vacancy occurs. He has the authority to reject those finalists and ask the board for three more recommendations in a process that ends with the mayor's selection of a candidate who passes his muster and wins council approval.
Carney said he hopes to have more outsiders in a bigger pool that includes the former finalists as well as roughly three dozen people who already have applied.
Of the current applicants, about two-thirds are Police Department veterans, Carney said. He said he wanted a 50-50 mix as the pool is expanded.
"I think that there are a lot of good candidates inside the department, but I think right now we're at a crisis point in terms of the whole issue of police misconduct and community mistrust," he said. "Perhaps there's this perception out there that the police superintendent is someone who has always risen through the ranks of the department.
"This time around ... I think the mayor wants to dispel that notion."
Daley has taken heat in recent months for police wrongdoing. An ongoing corruption investigation so far has resulted in charges against six members of the special operations section. And four officers have been charged in connection with the off-duty beatings of civilians in two barroom incidents that were captured on videotape.
Williams and Belfiore both had extensive internal-affairs experience in investigating rogue officers.
But Daley's decision to look further could signal a desire to make a dramatic choice, emulating a move more than four decades ago by his father, Mayor Richard J. Daley.
The elder Daley was faced with a scandal in the old Summerdale police district, where eight officers were caught operating a burglary ring.
In 1960, Daley tapped O.W. Wilson, a highly respected criminologist from the University of California at Berkeley, to lead a committee to find a new police superintendent. After a month, the committee made a surprise recommendation: Wilson.
With the mayor's support, Wilson modernized the department during a tenure that spanned eight years.
But no other outsider has been chosen since.
Carney said he now sees the similarities in the Chicago of today and the one that existed in the wake of the Summerdale scandal.
The superintendent searches then and now have in common the desire to "restore trust" in the department, he said.
Copyright 2007 Chicago Tribune Company
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