CHICAGO — Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson has named former Chief of Patrol Fred Waller interim police superintendent.
Waller is coming out of retirement to take the job — after spending nearly three and a half decades with CPD. He retired in Aug. 2020 and will officially take over on May 15, the same day as Johnson’s inauguration.
“He has the integrity and experience to lead our department during this pivotal time,” Mayor-elect Johnson said. “Someone respected by both the rank-and-file officers and the residents that they serve.”
Waller, the former chief of patrol, was passed over the CPD superintendent job that went to Eddie Johnson in 2016.
When he retired, Waller had attained the third-highest rank in the Chicago Police Department and sources told WGN’s Erik Runge that he is respected within the department and is known as a “cop’s cop.”
“I’m honored to be selected as the Interim Superintendent for the Chicago Police Department and am ready to lead the department through this crucial moment. After listening to Mayor-elect Johnson’s comprehensive vision for public safety, I knew this was the right moment to come out of retirement,” said Waller.
“This is a crucial moment for our city and if there’s one thing that could bring me out of retirement it was the opportunity to lead and return to the place that I’ve given so much of my life to.”
The Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability, which is the agency charged with submitting three finalists for the permanent CPD superintendent position, has until mid-July to announce the three.
Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson’s has stated his preference of putting a CPD veteran in the position.
“Chief Waller has dedicated his career to serving the people of Chicago at virtually every level of the Chicago Police Department from patrol officer to third in command. He has the vision, experience, and integrity to lead the department through this pivotal time as we build a safer, stronger Chicago,” said Mayor-elect Johnson.
The current CPD interim Supt. Eric Carter is retiring on May 15 after taking over for David Brown, who left to take a job in the private sector back in Texas.
This will mark the third time in three months the city will see a different person leading the Chicago Police Department.
Late in his career, Waller received a 28-day suspension for using the word “rape” during a meeting while talking about a shift in patrol, leaving fewer officers to patrol in certain areas. He readily admits he used poor judgement.
“They were the wrong choice of words. It was an attempt to emphasize how much resources were being taken from patrol,” Waller said.
Waller said his words were phrased inappropriately but taken out of context and shares he gave up his vacation that year in lieu of taking time off work.
As he prepares to step into the seat as Chicago’s top cop, Waller said his main priority is boost morale and support for the rank-and-file officers while building relationships between CPD and the communities it serves.
“We’ve done some collaborative things in the past with some street intervention teams, and I see that some of the pastors and dads are getting involved and it has to be a collaborative effort,” Waller said.
Retired Chicago police lieutenant John Garrido who has been an outspoken critic at times of CPD saying he believes a major challenge facing officers has been changing policies from top of leadership on how responses to major events are handled.
“We’re gonna have these issues coming up, going into the summer on these weekends, and how the person at the top handles that is extremely important,” Garrido said.
During Wednesday’s news conference, Waller said he isn’t planning to apply for the permanent position.
“The biggest thing, I think, is our officers are waiting on pins and needles to see who will take the helm. Every step of the way, even the interim, makes a difference,” Waller said. “This is going to be a difficult job for whoever takes it over.”
Watch the entire Wednesday announcement in the video player below.
The Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability, which is the agency charged with submitting three finalists for the permanent CPD Superintendent position, have until mid-July to name the candidates.