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Black Aldermen Want To Interview Finalists For Next Police Superintendent

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A group of black aldermen on Thursday threatened to withhold their votes on Chicago's next police superintendent if Mayor Rahm Emanuel does not allow the City Council to question all three finalists for the job.

Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th), chairman of the City Council's Black Caucus, said the group prefers the next head of the Police Department be an African-American from within the current ranks, but would be willing to consider any candidate if they get a chance to interview all three finalists.

The finalists chosen by the Chicago Police Board are: Eugene Williams, the African-American chief of the Chicago Police Department Bureau of Support Services; Cedric Alexander, the African-American public safety director of DeKalb County, Georgia, near Atlanta; and Anne Kirkpatrick the white retired police chief of Spokane, Washington.

Sawyer said the City Council should be given a chance to vet the finalists at a public hearing before Emanuel makes his choice on the next top cop.

"We have not spoken with any of the candidates about what their plans for the Police Department are," he said. "If it goes the way it's going right now, we won't get that chance until confirmation."


Traditionally, aldermen have only had the opportunity to question whichever finalist is chosen by the mayor before an up or down vote, but Sawyer said aldermen should demand a voice in the selection of which finalist is nominated.

"We should have been doing it a long time ago, but I'm glad that we're doing it now, and we should question them. I think that the public demands us to question and to challenge the individuals that are coming before us," Sawyer said.

Asked what leverage aldermen have to force Emanuel to allow them to question all three finalists at a public hearing, Sawyer said "our votes."

So would black aldermen withhold their votes on the next superintendent if they don't get a chance to question all three finalists? Sawyer said yes.

Joined by 10 other members of the Black Caucus, Sawyer did not specifically demand Emanuel pick a specific candidate, unlike the council's Latino Caucus, which has said the mayor should give the top job to interim Supt. John Escalante, who didn't make the final cut. The Latino Caucus has said, at a minimum, the mayor should demand the Police Board send him a new list of finalists, which includes Escalante.

Sawyer said aldermen have not been given a chance to speak to any of the finalists, so the Black Caucus can't make a decision about the three finalists, but he said they would prefer an African-American from among the current ranks of the Chicago Police Department.

"We believe a local police veteran who understands the African-American experience in Chicago would be the best able to restore justice and safety in our city," he said.

Sawyer outlined the qualities the Black Caucus is looking for in the city's next top cop.

"We want somebody that can restore trust in the Police Department. We want somebody that has the trust of the rank and file, someone that knows Chicago, and knows how the Police Department works here. We need to ask questions and be sure that whoever that choice is could subscribe to these things that we're asking for," he said.

The alderman said the Black Caucus wants to find out what the three finalists have to say about how the Police Department operates; as well as their plans for restoring public trust in the Police Department in the wake of the Laquan McDonald shooting and other police scandals, and also restoring trust between top brass and the rank and file.

"If a white person could convince us to that matter to this level, we would consider that person as well," Sawyer said.

After the Police Board announced the three finalists for superintendent, Emanuel first said he wanted to make a quick decision, because he believes the city is "eager to get going" and have new leadership in place at CPD, but he later said he won't be rushed into choosing a nominee to send to the City Council.

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