CHICAGO — Chicago’s interim police superintendent announced sweeping changes to the force on Thursday, including a plan to move more than 1,100 detectives and narcotics and gang officers from the city’s five regional headquarters to its 22 smaller districts, putting them in closer contact with the patrol officers who know those neighborhoods.
Interim Superintendent Charlie Beck also said the department will create an office to carry out civil rights reforms and another new counter-terrorism unit.
The reorganization is the latest effort by Beck to place detectives and other specialized officers closer to the communities they police — a move that that follows the lead of what the police departments in New York and Los Angeles have done and that is seen as essential in restoring the public’s trust, which was shattered by tragedies such as the 2014 fatal police shooting of black teenager Laquan McDonald.
It is also a signal that Beck, the former Los Angeles police chief who was brought in by Mayor Lori Lightfoot as a temporary replacement for the fired superintendent, Eddie Johnson, is not content to wait around for a permanent replacement to take his job.
“I was the chief of the second biggest city in America for almost nine years,” Beck told the Chicago Sun-Times. “”I’m not a caretaker guy. I’m trying to get things done while I’m here. That was my commitment to her.”
The reorganization is the biggest change that Beck has brought to the department since he took over in December after Lightfoot fired Johnson after she said he lied to her about an incident in October in which he was found asleep in his vehicle. However, it’s not the only change Back has made. He previously demoted high-ranking members of the department and unveiled a plan to move homicide detectives around the city in the hopes catching up to other major departments that solve a far higher percentage of violent crimes.
“By shifting accountability back to the commands who know the needs of the communities best, enhancements will allow CPD to be more accountable and efficient,” First Deputy Superintendent Anthony Riccio said in a news release.
A major component of Beck’s plan is the creation of the Office of Constitutional Policing and Reform and naming Barbara West, now the highest ranking African American woman in the department’s history, to run it.
West, who was promoted to deputy superintendent, will oversee the police academy and spearhead reforms that were called for in a consent decree that the city entered into after the U.S. Department of Justice found the department to have a longstanding history of civil rights violations.
The new counter-terrorism bureau, which will include the bomb squad, SWAT team and other units that now conduct operations with federal agencies “will be responsible for all targeted operations into both international and domestic criminal enterprises … as well as coordination of intelligence and resources to ensure that the City of Chicago is protected from and can respond to a complex coordinated terrorist attack,” the department said in a news release.