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Chicago gets new top cop

By Frank Main, Fran Spielman and Annie Sweeney
Chicago Sun-Times

CHICAGO, Ill. — Newly minted Chicago Police Supt. Jody Weis will consider hiring someone outside the department — possibly from the FBI like himself — to run the Internal Affairs Division that investigates police misconduct.

“That’s an area where I would consider bringing in an outside person to head that up,” Weis said in an interview today with the Chicago Sun-Times before he was confirmed by the City Council. “I just think it might be a fresh time for that.”

Weis, 50, is a career FBI agent selected by Mayor Daley last month to replace both retired Supt. Phil Cline and former Chief Emergency Officer Cortez Trotter. He is being paid $310,000 a year and is locked into a term that ends after the 2011 mayoral election.

In a wide-ranging interview at City Hall, Weis elaborated on his earlier statements during City Council confirmation hearings that he planned to overhaul IAD to fight police corruption and restore public confidence in the 13,200-officer force.

Weis said he would consider offering financial or promotional incentives to recruit highly qualified detectives to join IAD. Some detectives might otherwise resist making a career change to investigate the conduct of fellow officers.

“If you have a top-notch detective doing the investigation, he or she carries a pretty good reputation throughout the department,’’ Weis said.

“In most instances all people want you to be is fair,” he said. “And if there is a detective known for being fair and he’s respected throughout the department, I think that’s the type of person people would be comfortable with.’’

Weis [pronounced WEES] said he plans to clear out some officers from police headquarters at 35th and Michigan and redeploy them to the streets to boost manpower.

“I think there’s some officers we might be able to get back from headquarters,’’ he said. “Headquarters is pretty fat right now with folks.’’

Weis said redrawing the city’s 25 districts or realigning the beats within them — each of which comes with a patrol car — also are “on the table.”

That option has met political opposition from aldermen worried they might lose beat cars to other parts of the city with more crime. Beat realignment has not occurred in the city for more than two decades.

Weis takes office Feb. 1 after he relocates from Philadelphia, where he is in charge of the FBI office there.

He said he planned to select a first deputy — traditionally the person who runs the day-to-day operations of the department — within “the first couple of weeks” of his arrival at police headquarters. He’s been reviewing resumes of his command staff and said he was “very impressed” with their credentials.

“I need someone who has some breadth of experience in the department,” Weis said of a first deputy.

“I’ve got a lot of investigative experience, I’ve got a lot of tactical experience, I’ve got terrorism experience. What I don’t have is the actual police [experience],” he said. “I worked with police my whole career, but I need someone who has a very strong patrolling background.”

In recent City Council hearings, Weis was pressured by some aldermen to pick an African-American as first deputy, but he has refused to make any promises about whom he will select.

Weis also said he will review the department’s medical-roll policy, which allows up to 365 days of leave every two years. He acknowledged that some officers need that much time to recover from catastrophic injuries, but he said he understands that it’s open to abuse and needs close monitoring.

Weis vowed to build a new Chicago Police academy packed with the latest technology — one that will be a showcase for U.S. law enforcement.

And he said he would like to create a youth program that would have police officers interacting with young athletes in the gym or on playing fields of Chicago.

Although he plans to crack down on even minor rule infractions by officers, he also said he has a habit of sending congratulatory letters to officers who do a good job.

He plans to conduct regular visits with his troops in the field — and even stop in for a chat if he spots cops taking a break in a restaurant in the wee hours.

Weis, a fitness buff and former soldier who regularly works out and runs a 9-minute mile, said he would encourage officers — especially on his command staff — to get in shape.

“A lot of it just comes from example — if they see me out running with the folks,” Weis said.

“Most people don’t like to be embarrassed by a 50-year old man. If I’m out jogging with the young troops and they’re not staying up with me — and I don’t run a blistering pace, I run about about a 9-minute-pace — but if 25-year old kids aren’t keeping up with me, then maybe we’ll come up with some ways [to promote fitness].”

Copyright 2008 The Chicago Sun-Times

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