By Suzannah Gonzales
CHICAGO – Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel will appoint a new interim police chief on Monday to run a department that is under federal investigation for use of lethal force, after rejecting three finalists chosen by a civilian board.
Emanuel’s office said he will name Eddie Johnson, a department veteran who currently heads the patrol division, as acting police superintendent at a news conference at 3 p.m.
Emanuel’s decision underscores the political sensitivities in naming a successor to Garry McCarthy, who was ousted as superintendent in December after days of protests over a white officer’s shooting of black teenager Laquan McDonald.
The city delayed for more than a year the release of video footage that led to first-degree murder charges against the officer, Jason Van Dyke, touching off calls for Emanuel’s resignation. The Democratic mayor, who was re-elected last year, has vowed to complete his second four-year term.
In the aftermath of the protests, the U.S. Justice Department launched an investigation into police shootings in Chicago.
At public hearings over the choosing of a new police leader, many Chicagoans said they wanted an African-American superintendent and expressed concerns about racism on the force and ineffective discipline after police misconduct.
The Chicago Police Board screened 39 applicants and picked three finalists, including a top administrator with the Chicago police. Johnson, who is black, had not applied for the job.
“While each of the finalists had strong qualifications, the mayor did not feel that any of them were the complete package that Chicago needs at this time and thus none were offered the position,” Emanuel’s spokeswoman, Kelley Quinn, said in a statement.
Johnson is a Chicago native who joined the police department as a patrolman in 1988 and has held several supervisory roles. The mayor’s office said he has a strong track record in fighting crime and has received a number of policing awards.
The law requires Emanuel to pick a candidate recommended by the board. Local media reported that he will comply with the law by asking the board to conduct a second search and encourage Johnson to apply.
The three recommended finalists included two African-Americans: Cedric Alexander, public safety director of DeKalb County, Georgia, and Eugene Williams, Chicago’s police deputy superintendent. Anne Kirkpatrick, retired police chief of Spokane, Washington, is white.