CHICAGO – The head of Chicago Police Department’s counterterrorism bureau, tapped by Mayor Brandon Johnson to become the city’s next top cop, is officially one step closer to taking over the position.
Chief Larry Snelling appeared at the City Council’s Committee on Police and Fire meeting Friday afternoon as aldermen voted unanimously to confirm his nomination.
Snelling needed to attend a public hearing, which he did earlier this month, and be approved by a City Council vote before he can officially take the reins. The next step in the process will come on Wednesday, when the full City Council is expected to come together at a special meeting to cast its vote, confirming Johnson’s pick to lead the department.
“It truly is an honor to sit before you today in this position,” said Snelling.
Chief Snelling gave praise to interim superintendent Fred Waller, who came out of retirement to fill the role during the nationwide search and transition process. Members of the committee also thanked him for his efforts in leading the department.
“I can’t tell you someone who loves his job more than Superintendent Waller,” said Snelling. “I can’t tell you the sacrifices that he’s made, and he did it for the department and his love of the city.”
Snelling is the first superintendent pick nominated by the independent Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability (CCPSA).
20th Ward Alderman Jeanette Taylor, like many others who spoke, told Snelling she was looking forward to working with him as he moves into his new role.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do and it’s even more of a step in the right direction because the community council actually picked you,” Taylor said.
Friday’s meeting lasted about three hours. Resident George Blakemore, a frequent participant at public meetings, was the only community member in attendance to approach the podium during public comment.
Snelling, an Englewood native and 31-year veteran of CPD, answered questions on pressing topics and issues facing the city, as he met with alderpersons publicly for the first time since he was announced as the mayor’s pick for superintendent last month.
Since the announcement, Snelling has made it clear that main priorities of his include more training for officers and addressing violent crime.
On Friday, he fielded questions on topics from diversity in hiring, using technology as a tool in crime fighting, working with the community to bridge gaps and trust, and providing resources for officers.
Several aldermen asked specifically about mental health resources for officers.
Snelling pointed out that what officers see firsthand can take a significant toll on their mental and emotional health, and said he believes there needs to be more resources at the department-level, outside of work, and said top leadership must recognize when officers need the additional help. He also said looking at officers’ days off must be a priority.
The incoming superintendent was asked about the approximate 1,500 officer deficit and how the department plans to recruit strong candidates from diverse backgrounds.
“Our process needs to include the community. It can’t just be a billboard with police officers on it,” said Snelling.
Snelling also said he believes that recruitment process must include outreach to clergy members, community leaders, activists, and other stakeholders, and that they need to look to opportunities and job prospects that will help lead youth on the path to pursue opportunities like a career in public safety.
“There’s a lot of doors that need to be opened, and a lot of myths that need to be broken,” said Snelling.
Snelling said he believes it would be beneficial to add more supervisors. Although he spoke about bringing on more sergeants particularly, Johnson has been vocal about his goal to add 200 detectives to the department.
Snelling said he will explore looking at how officers are deployed to make sure they respond as efficiently as possible. When asked about his thoughts on utilizing social workers and counselors to respond to 911 calls, Snelling also said he supports those efforts.
The conversation of license plate readers and gunshot detection technology to assist in investigating robberies and other crime patterns, was also raised Friday. Snelling was asked his thoughts on the technologies and how police utilize the data and information gathered by them.
“I’m for any technology that’s going to reduce violent crime and save lives,” said Snelling.
He pointed out the benefits of license plate readers in giving police a heads up, for example, on a stolen vehicle. Oftentimes, Snelling said stolen vehicles are used in perpetuity of additional crimes, and if the offenders are apprehended after a hit on the license plate readers, weapons are often recovered from inside the vehicle.
Snelling also said he would like to have stricter gun laws in place, particularly for repeat offenders, and didn’t believe this would infringe on people’s Second Amendment rights.
This year to date, CPD has seized nearly 8,500 guns off the streets of Chicago, and another 620 have been turned in, records show.
While the mayor announced on the campaign trail that he would look to terminate the city’s contract with the company that runs ShotSpotter, he signed an agreement earlier this summer extending it.
Snelling also spoke about community policing and connecting with the community to help build trust.
“Our officers are painted as robots built on an assembly line,” said Snelling.
The special meeting to confirm Snelling as superintendent is scheduled for next Wednesday at 10 a.m.