Mayor Rahm Emanuel has rejected three finalists recommended by the Chicago police board for the city's top police post and selected the force's current chief of patrol as the new interim police superintendent, city council officials said Sunday.
Emanuel is trying to replace Superintendent Garry McCarthy whose firing was part of a frantic effort to regain trust in the police department and his own leadership following the release in November of dashcam video showing a white police officer fatally shooting an unarmed black teenager 16 times.
Alderman Anthony Beale said the mayor's office called him Saturday to inform him that Emanuel has selected Chicago Chief of Patrol Eddie Johnson as interim superintendent. Johnson, who is African-American, was not among the board's recommendations.
"While I supported the nomination of Gene Williams, I believe Eddie Johnson is equally suited to lead the Chicago Police Department and I support Mayor Emanuel's decision," Beale said. "Eddie Johnson knows Chicago, he knows the police department and the challenges facing our neighborhoods. He is a true leader and will bring the fundamental changes CPD needs right now. I look forward to getting to work with Eddie right away."
Anabel Abarca, a spokeswoman for Alderman George Cardenas, a prominent member of the Chicago City Council's Latino caucus, also told AP Sunday that Emanuel reached out to the alderman with news of Johnson's selection.
Emanuel's spokeswoman Kelley Quinn declined to comment on whether Johnson is the mayor's pick, but said he has made a decision and has informed the three nominees. She said Emanuel would announce his decision within days.
"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," Quinn said. "The mayor called each of them individually late Saturday to let them know of his decision."
A city ordinance allows Emanuel to appoint an interim chief and ask the police board for a new list of finalists.
One of the board's initial nominees, Cedric Alexander, told AP on Sunday that Emanuel offered him the job on Thursday during a meeting in Washington, D.C., and that the mayor told him he intended to make Johnson his first deputy. But he said Emanuel phoned him Saturday night to say he had changed his mind.
"He did offer me the position in D.C. on Thursday, and last night he called and said he's going in a different direction," said Alexander, the public safety director in Georgia's DeKalb County. NBC5 in Chicago first reported that Alexander said he'd been offered the position.
Alexander told AP the plan had been for him to fly to Chicago on Monday and that the announcement was to have come Wednesday.
"I would like to thank the Chicago Police Board for giving me the opportunity to apply," Alexander said. "Clearly the mayor is going in another direction, and I would just like to wish the very best for the people of Chicago."
Chicago City Council's black caucus said last week that they would prefer a local African-American for the job. But they stopped short of endorsing Eugene Williams, a black deputy chief in Chicago who was among the police board recommendations. Anne Kirkpatrick, former police chief in Spokane, Washington, also was a finalist.
On Sunday, Police Board President Lori E. Lightfoot said the board "has not received formal communication" from the mayor regarding the nominees it submitted for the position. "The board will be taking no action until it receives such notification." Lightfoot said the board would have "no further comment."
Officer Jason Van Dyke has been charged with first-degree murder in the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald and the video has prompted investigations, including a federal civil rights probe of the Chicago Police Department.