In Chicago, Choice To Head Police Dept. A Controversial One

By Kari Lydersen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 2, 2007

CHICAGO -- Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley has chosen a new superintendent for the city's scandal-plagued police department from outside its ranks for the first time in more than 40 years, naming Philadelphia's top FBI agent to the post.

In making the appointment, Daley followed in the footsteps of his father, Mayor Richard J. Daley, who appointed renowned University of California criminologist O.W. Wilson to head the department in 1960, after eight officers were nabbed running a burglary ring.

Richard Daley selected J.P. "Jody" Weis, bypassing a months-long selection process being carried out by a national law enforcement think tank and the civilian Chicago Police Board. Daley had rejected three candidates chosen by the board, including two Chicago Police Department veterans and a New York commander.

"Because some officers have fundamentally abused their trust with the people of Chicago, public confidence in the police department has eroded," Daley said at a news conference on Thursday when he made his announcement. "I've made it clear that his mission is to further reduce crime in our city and to increase confidence among the people of our city in the actions of the Chicago Police Department."

If approved by the City Council, Weis will replace Philip Cline, who announced his retirement in April in the face of mounting criticism.

Mark Donahue, president of the Fraternal Order of Police's Chicago lodge, said officers are disappointed that the post didn't go to one of their own. "Weis has no police background, and that will be an issue with some of our members," he said. "We would have felt more comfortable with someone who could have hit the ground running. This gentleman will take longer to get up to snuff."

Bringing in an outsider is commonly seen as a good way to ferret out corruption and bring a fresh eye to gang problems. But police unions typically oppose such moves because they want officers to be able to move up through the ranks and obtain the ultimate goal.

The mayor of the Boston suburb of Waltham was blocked by the City Council in September when she proposed looking outside the city's ranks for a new chief for the first time. In November, Milwaukee chose an outsider to head its police force for only the second time in the city's history. This fall, the department in Brooksville, Fla., considered only outsiders to replace a disgraced chief.

While based in Washington, Weis, 49, was a leader of the controversial internal FBI investigation of Chicago agent Robert G. Wright Jr., a whistle-blower who alleged that the agency botched terrorism investigations in the 1990s.

Jamie Kalven, a journalist who runs a Web site cataloguing police misconduct, said an outsider may be what it takes to reform Chicago's department, but only if the mayor supports him in that effort.

"He seems like an interesting choice, but what's really striking is how the choice was made," Kalven said. "It was not a product of the selection process we thought was unfolding. The mayor had his own process and made his own choice. It doesn't mean it's a bad choice, but it underscores that Daley exercises a monarch's power."

The city's police department has been embarrassed by a series of recent incidents. In February, an off-duty officer was videotaped pummeling a diminutive female bartender. Off-duty officers also allegedly beat a group of businessmen at a bar in a confrontation over a pool game last December. On Oct. 29, Chicago officers used a stun gun on an 82-year-old woman with dementia who refused to open the door and brandished a hammer at city officials called to check on her.

And six members of Chicago's elite Special Operations Section (SOS) are facing criminal charges in a corruption investigation. One is charged with planning the murder of a former SOS officer cooperating with authorities.

Daley hired another outsider, Los Angeles lawyer Ilana Rosenzweig, this summer to head the office that fields citizen complaints. The mayor has described the move as part of an ongoing effort to improve police relations with minority communities. But civil rights leaders are angry that an African American wasn't chosen for superintendent.

"African Americans are the largest ethnic population, the most arrested population, the most falsely arrested population and the most abused by police misconduct," said the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who said he was "astonished" to learn of Weis's nomination. "The black community needs someone who can earn their trust. There are many qualified African Americans who were passed over."

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