Former high-ranking cop to become interim superintendent next month (but he doesn’t want the job permanently)

CHICAGO — Fred Waller, the Chicago Police Department’s former chief of patrol, will take over as interim superintendent of police on May 15, the same day Brandon Johnson will be sworn in as mayor. But Waller, who is widely respected within the police force, said he would not apply to get the job permanently.

Johnson’s plan to name Waller to the interim spot was leaked to the press earlier this week. The men made the announcement official during a press conference Wednesday morning.

The mayor-elect said he selected Waller because the 34-year CPD veteran “is deeply committed to accountability, collaboration, and excellence, which will set the tone for the entire department.”

Fred Waller is seen in a Chicago Police Department video from February 2020. | Chicago Police Department

During Wednesday’s press conference, Waller acknowledged the challenges of being a cop in Chicago but said he regularly tells officers they have the potential to “do good police work.”

“You can still remain professional in this environment even though you are being disrespected on a daily basis,” Waller said.

He resigned from the department amid a rash of high-ranking departures from CPD during the summer of 2020. Waller was considered a front-runner for the superintendent position in 2016, but the job eventually went to Eddie Johnson.

Johnson was fired by Mayor Lori Lightfoot in December 2019.

“Eddie Johnson intentionally lied to me several times,” Lightfoot claimed as she announced Johnson’s departure. Those lies, she said, related to a scandalous incident in which Johnson was found asleep behind the wheel of his car after having drinks with a female officer.

Waller will be the third person to lead the police department this year. Current interim Superintendent Eric Carter took the post in March after David Brown resigned as the department’s leader.

One month later, on April 20, Carter announced that he would be leaving the department, too, on May 15. He did not provide a reason for his unexpected departure, which came as CPD leadership received withering criticism for failing to manage a large group incident in the Loop.

The Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability is responsible for handing Johnson the names of three candidates for the superintendent’s job by mid-July. Last week, after receiving just six applications for the position, the committee hired an executive headhunting firm to drum up interest.

By comparison, the city’s last search for Johnson’s replacement drew 23 applicants within five weeks. Two more were subsequently added to the list, with 14 of the 25 applications coming from candidates outside the city.

Previous searches for superintendent candidates drew 44 applicants in 2011 and 39 in 2016.

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