Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Police replacement a political perk of winning, holding elective office

It’s one of the perks of being elected mayor of any community – you get the power to have your very own uniformed, professional law enforcement type as your police chief, and that chief is totally susceptible to your whims.
JOHNSON: Politics puts job on the line

Whoever wins the office of mayor of Chicago come the Feb. 26 election (and likely April 2 runoff) is going to have the fate of Eddie Johnson in his/her hands. In all likelihood, the police superintendent of Chicago is likely to be unemployed shortly after the May inauguration.

IT’S JUST THE way it is. Being a police chief isn’t a lifelong appointment. It is a job you hold so long as the mayor is approving of you.

So when Toni Preckwinkle comes right out and says she’s going to replace Johnson if/when she becomes mayor, a part of me wants to credit her for being incredibly honest.

Not that I necessarily approve of the reason she has for wanting Johnson out on his keister. But at least she’s not trying to engage in some political rhetoric or high-minded doubletalk about her intentions.

These thoughts came to my mind Monday night while watching one of Preckwinkle’s many mayoral opponents on the WTTW-TV program, "Chicago Tonight." Susana Mendoza had the question put to her directly – would she be intent on picking a new police chief? And who, pray tell, could it be?
PRECKWINKLE: Wants points for firing chief

MENDOZA TRIED TO make it seem as though it is to her credit that she wouldn’t answer – offering up a high-minded rhetorical rambling about how it’s premature to be engaging in such talk about replacing public officials since she’s not actually elected mayor yet.

That sounds nice. In a certain goo-goo mentality way of thinking, it might be admirable.

Yet it also strikes me as being a load of, how shall I say it, horse hockey!

The simple fact is that a police chief post of any type is – by definition – one in which the person serves at the will of the elected official. Invariably, a new mayor brings in a new person to run the police department for them – in ways that are befitting the persona of the new mayor.
MENDOZA: Wants points for not saying

IN FACT, ONE of the few police superintendents in Chicago I’ve ever heard of who didn’t immediately get replaced upon the election of a new mayor was that of LeRoy Martin – who gained the post from Harold Washington and remained in charge of the police even after Richard M. Daley was elected in 1989.

Of course, Daley the younger wound up serving more than two decades as mayor and wound up going through his share of police superintendents after Martin retired in 1992.

The point being that it’s pretty much a sure thing that Eddie Johnson’s time as superintendent – which dates back to 2016 – will end some time next year. The new mayor is going to view having a police chief who owes their presence in the job to her/him as one of the perks of the job!

Particularly if Garry McCarthy winds up somehow winning the mayoral election. Being a former police “chief” in both Chicago (where Mayor Rahm Emanuel fired him in a move he wrongly hoped would make the “stink” over the shooting death of Laquan McDonald fizzle away) and Newark, N.J., I’m sure he’ll have strong thoughts about how his superintendent should behave – and will expect his new “top cop” to follow instructions from City Hall very closely.

AS FOR PRECKWINKLE, she’s admitting she wants to replace Johnson because she says she thinks he is a significant part of the problem in terms of the distrust a portion of the population has for the police department in Chicago.
McCARTHY: Cop turned mayor? Maybe!

“He refused to acknowledge that there was a code of silence in the police department,” Preckwinkle told the Chicago Sun-Times. “I don’t think that’s an honest statement.”

Of course, there are those who think this attitude is more evidence of Preckwinkle behaving like a political “boss,” which is exactly what they’d really like to see removed from municipal government.

Some people may even vote against Preckwinkle for this very attitude. Although if we want to be honest, Johnson’s 30-year career with the Chicago Police is likely to end in retirement – regardless of who prevails on Election Day.


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