Fred Waller tapped by Mayor-elect Johnson to serve as interim CPD superintendent

Johnson taps Fred Waller as interim CPD superintendent
Chicago Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson named Fred Waller to serve as interim Chicago police superintendent when he takes office.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson named Fred Waller Wednesday to serve as interim Chicago police superintendent once he takes office.

Fred Waller is a 34-year veteran of CPD, with Mayor-elect Johnson pulling him out of retirement.

Waller will take over as interim police superintendent on May 15, the same day on which current interim Superintendent Eric Carter will retire and Johnson officially becomes mayor.

Johnson made the announcement Wednesday morning in River North.

"He has the experience and integrity to lead the Chicago Police Department during this pivotal time," Johnson said.

Waller rose through the ranks within the Chicago Police Department. He went from patrol officer to chief of patrol to ultimately chief of operations and third in command.

Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson names Fred Waller to serve as new interim Chicago police superintendent.

Waller said he does not want the job on a permanent basis, but is ready to lead the department until a permanent replacement is found. He outlined two priorities Wednesday morning.

"We must rebuild trust and we must rebuild morale in the department," he said. "We can and we will do both."

Waller's selection drew widespread praise from many who supported law-and-order mayoral candidate Paul Vallas.

"I know that Fred Waller will be a great pick," said 15th Ward Alderman Ray Lopez. "He understands the department, he understands Chicago, he understands neighborhoods and I think he will hit the ground running, which is exactly what we need as we enter the summer months."

Reactions to Fred Waller's appointment as interm Chicago police superintenent were mixed, if generally positive, with concerns from multiple sides.

42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly, who is concerned about police being ready to handle a repeat of last month's youth mob chaos, and being prepared for summer, also was pleased by the pick.

"He has a tremendous amount of experience managing large group incidents," Reilly said. "He was the chief of patrol, and so he was dealing with the troops on the ground day in, day out, you know; he has experience managing large protests."

Lopez and others hope Waller will give the rank and file a well-needed morale boost, but Fraternal Order of Police president John Catanzara said that may not happen.

"One of Fred Waller's acts as Chief of Patrol was to throw our members under the bus when it came to the Bobby Rush popcorn gate saying that was the most embarrassing moment in his 32 years old of policing," he said.

Police reformers also have some concerns, including journalist and activist Jamie Kalven, who broke the Laquan McDonald cover-up story. He said the Ronald Watts scandal, in which people were falsely arrested and convicted for drug and gun crimes, occurred under Waller's watch.

"He was the commander of the district in which this spectacular, sprawling criminal enterprise was going on," he said.

Waller was not accused of any wrongdoing in that schedule. He also comes with some other baggage, including being suspended after comparing the redeployment of officers to sexual assault.

"It was an attempt to emphasize how much resources were being taken from patrol," Waller explained.

Mayor-elect Johnson will be presented with three finalists for police superintendent by the commission for public safety and accountability by July 14.

"Chief Waller is a respected veteran of the Chicago Police Department," Johnson said. "He shares my commitment to constitutional policing. He is deeply committed to accountability, collaboration and excellence, which will set the tone for the entire department during this crucial interim period."

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Charlie Beck, the former LA police chief, served as Chicago's interim police superintendent in 2020, and said Waller is a good choice. He believes the next full time top cop can be successful whether they're a CPD insider or from elsewhere.

"I think the most important thing is to get the best person. I think either one can be successful. They both have distinct challenges. Coming from the outside, you have a steep learning curve. Coming from the inside, you have a steep forgetting curve," Beck said.

The mayor-elect said he is confident that Waller will set the tone for the entire force. He said he did consider other possible candidates before settling on Waller, and added the chief was always going to be part of his transition team.

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