Chicago's police board on Thursday named three final contenders to become the city's police chief, filling a leadership gap left in the violent-crime-ridden city after the last superintendent was fired in a scandal that followed the fatal shooting of black teenager Laquan McDonald.
The candidates include two African Americans and a retired Washington state police chief who would become the first woman to lead the force. Cedric Alexander is the public safety director in Georgia's DeKalb County. Anne Kirkpatrick was the chief in Spokane until she retired in 2012. And Eugene Williams is a deputy chief in Chicago who also was a finalist for the job in 2011.
"The next superintendent must demonstrate leadership in a way that welcomes and demands accountability," Chicago Police Board President Lori Lightfoot said in a news release, adding that the board is impressed with the way all three candidates have handled police misconduct and police shooting incidents.
The final choice lies with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who also is under fire in the police accountability scandal. Emanuel fired superintendent Garry McCarthy in December after officer Jason Van Dyke was charged with murder for shooting McDonald 16 times.
Tensions have increased in Chicago since the city was ordered by a judge to release video showing McDonald's killing. And police have said the number of homicides and shootings in Chicago doubled in the first two months of this year compared with the same period in 2015. Interim police superintendent John Escalante, who has run the department since McCarthy was fired, said when those statistics were released that no officer wanted to appear in "the next YouTube video that goes viral."
The police chief short list does not include Escalante, who has said he applied for the job. But he could still be named the permanent superintendent if Emanuel rejects all three finalists and asks the board to conduct another nationwide search, as he is allowed under the law.
Lightfoot said the new superintendent will "lead the department in a new way" and will treat people with respect, especially those residents of high crime neighborhoods. She said the three finalists are best equipped to rebuild the community's trust in the police department and fight crime.
Kirkpatrick, 56, is an instructor with the FBI's Law Enforcement Executive Development Association in the Seattle area. Perhaps the most widely known of the three finalists, 61-year-old Alexander has served on President Barack Obama's Task Force on 21st Century Policing and appears as a commentator on CNN. Williams, 62, has been with the Chicago Police Department for three decades. He was a finalist for the top job in 2011 before Emanuel hired McCarthy.
Addressing a panel discussion last week at Harvard, former superintendent McCarthy said the law limited his role in reprimanding Van Dyke to stripping his police powers, and that only happened on the recommendation of the Independent Police Review Authority.
"Somebody had to take the fall," McCarthy said.