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Change-Up In The Top Job At Chicago PD Greeted With Mixed Reactions


Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel yesterday filled what may be the toughest police chief job in the country. In doing so, the mayor rejected the finalists his own police board nominated. Instead, Emanuel picked longtime Chicago cop and current chief of patrol Eddie Johnson to take over as interim police superintendent. From Chicago, NPR's David Schaper reports.

DAVID SCHAPER, BYLINE: In selecting Eddie Johnson, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel turns to a 27-year department veteran, someone who he says is a proven crime fighter and has impeccable integrity.


RAHM EMANUEL: He's well-respected within the department and among all the rank-and-file officers that I have spoken with. He will have their backs when they do their job well and will hold them accountable when they do not.

SCHAPER: Johnson becomes the new interim police superintendent after Emanuel, under pressure from black and Latino community leaders, rejected the three finalists for the top job recommended by his handpicked police board, even though two of those finalists are black. Emanuel fired Garry McCarthy four months ago amid the fallout from the release of a video of a Chicago police officer firing 16 shots into a black teenager a year earlier. That video sparked massive protests around the city, straining already tense police-community relations. The police board will now reopen the search but will likely recommend Johnson among its next three finalists. Johnson did not apply for the job in the first round but now says he's eager to take on this challenge, which he says requires him to focus on one word that he says...


EDDIE JOHNSON: Is at the heart of good policing, safe communities - is the central challenge facing Chicago today. That word is trust.

RODERICK SAWYER: I think it was a great choice.

SCHAPER: South Side, Chicago Alderman Roderick Sawyer chairs the city council's black caucus.

SAWYER: He was somebody that is well-respected throughout the communities that he has served. He is a gentleman of high integrity. He's a hard-nosed police officer.

SCHAPER: The black and Latino caucuses teamed up in recent days, expressing frustration and, in doing so, pressured Emanuel to reconsidered the finalists, two of whom were outsiders. George Cardenas chairs the city council's Latino caucus. And he calls Johnson a win-win candidate.


GEROGE CARDENAS: One, he's going to work with communities. One, he's going to work on transparency. One, he's going to work on morale. And he fit the bill. Eddie Johnson fits the bill according to the people that I'm talking to.

SCHAPER: But not everyone is pleased.

TAMAR MANASSEH: I don't think it's OK. I'm offended.

SCHAPER: Tamar Manasseh is with the group Mothers Against Senseless Violence and told member station WBEZ that she prefers someone from outside of Chicago.

MANASSEH: I just think with the culture that exists within the CPD - I don't think that right now - that they can really produce anyone that would be acceptable for us right now because of the level of distrust that they have for the people and that we have for them.

SCHAPER: That high level of distrust in a department that is under federal investigation isn't the only challenge facing the new superintendent. So too is boosting low officer morale and reducing Chicago's sharp increase in gang and gun violence. More than 125 people have been murdered in Chicago so far this year, almost double the number by this point last year. David Schaper, NPR News, Chicago. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Schaper is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk, based in Chicago, primarily covering transportation and infrastructure, as well as breaking news in Chicago and the Midwest.
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