Mayor Lori Lightfoot is faced with a decision less than six months into her tenure that could define her.
She will soon select a Chicago Police Department (CPD) superintendent, as Eddie Johnson, who has led the CPD since 2016, announced on Nov. 7 that he is retiring at the end of the year.
Lightfoot named former Los Angeles Police Department Superintendent Charlie Beck as Johnson’s interim replacement.
Lightfoot is in a familiar position—she was formerly the head of the Chicago Police Board, and in 2016, after then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel fired CPD Superintendent Garry McCarthy, she and the board provided Emanuel with three finalists to replace him.
Emanuel didn’t choose any of the three; instead, he picked Johnson.
Lightfoot said at a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois facility in Morgan Park on Nov. 6 that she plans to respect the board’s process.
Choosing a CPD superintendent is a tough and important decision—and serving as top cop requires many skills. That officer needs to have the respect of the entire department and the trust of the city.
Lightfoot’s selection of an outsider in Beck to serve as interim superintendent is no surprise. She likely wants someone who won’t follow the “code of silence” that shields fellow CPD officers, which many citizens feel is a problem.
Lightfoot has already stood up to the status quo, pushing back against aldermanic power as soon as she took office in May.
Neither Lightfoot nor the new superintendent should be expected to solve all Chicago’s crime problems, but they can help.
Lightfoot praised Johnson after he announced his retirement, saying in a statement that since he became superintendent in April 2016, he had “implemented a data-driven crime strategy that has reduced overall crime in Chicago and achieved a 38-percent reduction in total shootings.”
Johnson has experienced serious health issues in recent years, and questions remain about the timing of his announcement, which came a few weeks after he was found asleep in his parked vehicle after a night out; he called for an investigation of himself.
His permanent successor must hold officers and criminals accountable.
Lightfoot needs to find that person. It’s not an easy decision, but it’s one she knew she would need to make when she ran for mayor.