Learning from the Reaction to Weis

Superintendent Weis’ tenure with the Chicago Police Department is winding down as the chorus calling for his resignation grows louder.  It is critically important that the new mayor learn from the reaction by the old guard within the Chicago Police Department and the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) leadership.

(This opinion editorial was submitted to the Sun-Times but they decided not to publish it; however, the Sun-Times did publish this gem of a letter that is just another rant about how great a cop William Cozzi was.)

Superintendent Weis’ tenure with the Chicago Police Department is winding down as the chorus calling for his resignation grows louder.  It is critically important that the new mayor learn from the reaction by the old guard within the Chicago Police Department and the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) leadership.

It has become clear that the Fraternal Order of Police cannot live with the idea of an outsider running the Department.   The Department is in great need of a high integrity leader concerned solely with bringing in the best practices in policing from around the nation and the world.  If the new mayor brings in a superintendent concerned with pleasing the old guard of the Department any possibility of restoring the trust of communities in the Department will be lost.

Fraternal Order of Police (FOP)Weis’ critics are too quick to try to distance the Department from the scandals that brought Weis here including that of the Special Operations Section.  The fruits of the federal investigation into this scandal have yet to be revealed.  The city continues to pay out huge amounts of money from civil settlements regarding police abuse with no end in sight, $34,000,000 on average over the last decade.  Promoting within the Department to fill the position of Superintendent should be done with all due caution as nobody would benefit from a return to a typical CPD style of policing.  Willingly or unwillingly a best practices mentality must be thrust upon the Department regardless of the reaction from the minority of old guard officers.

Have no doubt that within the Department the needed elements to start constructing best practices based Department can be found.  These elements have been silenced both under Weis and the string of past superintendents who have been more about keeping their job and political expediency then doing what is in everyone’s best interests.  Any new superintendent must have a track record of being able to nurture these elements found within the Department while also putting aside political pressures to cover up for the worst within the Department.   The new Superintendent must also make a strong commitment to foster a new age of transparency by opening police data and records to communities to allow community members to be fully informed partners in responding to violence in their communities as well as abusive and corrupt officers.

Weis and CPDAs demonstrated by their funding of Jon Burge’s defense the FOP is not willing to be an engaged partner in reforming the Department.  While there are plenty of factual reasons to criticize some of Weis’ decisions the onslaught of rabid complaints from the FOP and the old guard of the Department cannot be based on anything but a strong resistance to the possibility of reform that Weis embodied.  The citizens of Chicago and the men and women of the Chicago Police Department deserve a leader who is dedicated to bringing 21st century best practices into every aspect of the Department, from accountability to equipment.  Returning to the practices of the last 100 years will not benefit anyone.

Tracy has nearly two decades of experience researching and working within criminal justice systems. When Tracy began pursuing a career dedicate to system reform, he found that no single organization existed to promote evidence-based discussions among law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve. Recognizing that citizens in Chicago deserved the right to demand transparency in their criminal justice system, Siska established the Chicago Justice Project. He received his Master of Arts degree in Criminal Justice at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

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