Rank-and-file trash CPD superintendent

March 18, 2009 2:51:44 PM PDT
Chicago Police Superintendent Jody Weis has received an unflattering performance review from members of the Fraternal Order of Police. Nearly 200 officers gave Weis a no-confidence vote at their monthly union meeting Tuesday night.

It has been a rocky road for the superintendent since he took over last year. There's been controversial shootings, several high-profile violence incidents in the city and, just recently, Weis was called before a federal judge for refusing to provide names of officers who've been accused of using excessive force.

Now the police union is saying he's not the man for the job. On Wednesday, the superintendent had his say.

"I don't want to get into kind of a tit-for-tat battle with the FOP. They represent about 8,000 members. My philosophy is usually just to keep working harder and let the facts speak for themselves," Weis said.

But the facts are that the police superintendent is coming under heavy fire with the Fraternal Order of Police saying the rank-and-file members they represent have no confidence in Weis' ability to lead the department.

"I would either like to see drastic changes in the operations of the departments, and for any means whatsoever to take place to raise the morale and lessen the frustration level of the members I represent," said Mark Donahue, Fraternal Order of Police. "This shows the level of frustration they're feeling out there, and the feeling that they can't do their job as they know it needs to be done because of concerns over department members having their back."

Donohue likens CPD morale to the world's financial markets, saying, "We are in a complete meltdown."

"I came here basically because of an image problem," Weis said.

On Wednesday, Supt. Weis spoke at the regular meeting of the Niagra Club, a group that addresses global diversity issues in Chicago. He admitted there is a morale problem within the police department, but said the FOP vote could be linked to union bargaining.

"I think a lot of it is based upon the frustration that men and women in the department don't have contracts. Unfortunately, that's not something that I can control. That's actually between the union and the city," Weis said.

Weis says he expects some grumbling as he attempts to shake up the department, however, he thinks that as some of his programs take shape in coming months, including better equipment and training for officers. Morale will improve, he said, despite the message in that FOP vote.

"You have to keep in mind you have less than 200 people that made this vote last night. Certainly they are representative of their membership. I have got a lot of emails lately for trying to defend the men and women for having their names released unfairly in court. I have gotten a lot of emails and phone calls thanking the command staff to equipping them with rifles and new vehicles. I think there is maybe a silent majority that at least appreciate what we're trying to do. They see we have made some positive strides but we have a long ways to go," Weis said.

The FOP vote was just two percent of its membership, but Donohue says it's still reflective of a widespread lack of confidence.

The only other Chicago police superintendent on the receiving end of an FOP no-confidence vote was Matt Rodriguez in 1997. Ten days after the vote he was out, not because of the FOP but because a variety of issues caused the mayor to lose confidence.

The FOP vote has no legal impact on whether or not Weis will hold on to the $310,000 a year position. Weis still calls it the "best job in Chicago... right next to mayor."

The mayor said he has confidence in his superintendent.

"I support Supt. Weis. I think he's done a tremendous job. I mean, he's a very good, honest superintendent. He has a difficult job, all superintendents have," said Chicago Mayor Richard Daley

"Weis was brought in here to make sure that the police department was completely up to snuff, things were supposed to go in a professional manner, and that has not happened," said Ald. Ed Smith, 28th Ward.

Weis has critics in the city council, though they stop short of calling for his ouster. Some say that Weis' bigger challenge, beyond department morale, is slowing the amount of violent crime that keeps climbing.

"While people do not believe he can cure these problems. They have to wake up every day believing that he has the ability to make us safe," said Ald. Fredrenna Lyle

Lyle said she knows one man cannot single-handedly reduce the city's crime rate, but he does wear the jacket and something must be done. There were 11 shootings reported Tuesday in Chicago.

Weis is the first superintendent in nearly 50 years brought in from outside the department. His career was FBI. He'd never worn a Chicago Police uniform, and when he put it on, many rank-and-file cops were offended. Then he bounced 21 of 25 district commanders.