Major shake-up in Chicago PD

March 14, 2008 4:37:43 PM PDT
Chicago's new top, Supt. Jody Weis, has been on the job for six weeks, but he already has initiated one of the biggest shake-ups in department history. Twenty-one new district commanders were sworn in Friday morning.

Weis said he expected the changes to inspire new ideas for fighting crime. He spoke publicly for the first time Friday since announcing the shake-up on Thursday.

Veteran officers told ABC7 Chicago that there are many command level changes every time a new Chicago police superintendent takes office. What is different about the newest regime is that the changes happened in just one day's time.

Weis, a former Philadelphia FBI agent, is the first outsider to run the department since the 1960's. He said Chicago politics were not and will not be a consideration in how the force is led.

"With today's promotional ceremony, we have stepped out of the shadow of tradition. This is truly a defining moment for the Chicago Police Department," Weis told the officers Friday.

Twenty four hours earlier, the officers did not know they would be promoted Friday morning to the command ranks of the Chicago Police Department.

Weis said he would rather put his team in place as soon as possible.

"It's really just my style. I think it's important to get the people in place before you can focus on strategies," he said.

Chicago's new top cop is paid more than $300,000 each year by the Daley administration to reform the department tainted by corruption and abuse scandals. He is trying to rebuild the department's image, which took a beating last year when video of off-duty officer Anthony Abbate allegedly beating up a female bartender was aired around the world.

Weis also will attempt to lower the number of police misconduct lawsuits that cost the city tens of millions of dollars each year. The Weis administration will discourage the so-called "code of silence" among officers and encourage good cops to rat out the corrupt and violent ones.

"Police officers are just as upset as the community about corrupt officers. They have brilliant ideas, and this is telling them, this is what you can do," said Chief Tina Skahill of the Internal Affairs Division.

The promotions will mean that 21 of the city 25 police districts will have new commanders, who are likely to change the top lieutenants are their stations. The new commanders have been ordered to seek the firings of cops who do not accept the new, tougher line against misconduct.

"Supervisors will have to be accountable for those they're supervising," said 16th District Commander Anthony Riccio.

As the departments new commanders take charge Sunday, they are expected to make hundreds of more changes in the ranks.

Weis did not appear concerned about the ousted commanders and what might happen to other cops who are left on the outside when the shake up dust settles.

"That has to be up to them," he said. "They'll have the option of returning to a career service position, or those of eligible age will have the option of retiring."

Altogether, between 45 and 50 command-level changes have been made in the department since Weis took over six weeks ago.

There are several holdovers from the previous administration, but they are doing very different jobs now. The police department, as far as leadership goes, is very different than the one serving Chicago residents at the first of the year.