West Siders want former 15th District commander as next top cop

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Around 50 to 60 people attended the West Side town hall hearing on the search for the next Chicago police superintendent | Igor Studenkov | Austin Weekly New

By Igor Studenkov

The majority of the West Siders who spoke at the April 11 Chicago police superintendent search town hall had one clear message – they want former 15th District chief Ernest Cato to get the job.

The town hall at Kehrein Center for the Arts, 5628 W. Washington Blvd., was the first of four town halls that the Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability (CCPSA) is organizing to give Chicagoans from all parts of the city a chance to share what they want to see in the new superintendent.

CCPSA is responsible for selecting three candidates, then the next mayor – Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson – will need to choose one within 30 days. The applications are due on May 7 – a week before Johnson will be sworn in.

An estimated 50 to 60 people attended Tuesday’s town hall.

Both Cato supporters and speakers who didn’t support anyone in particular said they wanted the next superintendent to be compassionate, make sure police officers treat all parts of the city equally and focus on improving mental health, both within the police departments and in the community. Many also said they want the superintendent to make sure officers build relationships with residents, especially kids and teens.

Cato joined the Chicago Police Department in 1992. He spent much of his career on the West Side. In March 2016, he was assigned to the 15th District, then he became district commander in October 2017. Two years later, he was promoted to deputy chief of patrol for Area North.

When Mayor Lori Lightfoot fired then-Supt. Eddie Johnson in December 2019, Cato applied for the job. The Chicago Police Board, which was responsible for choosing candidates at the time, picked him as one of the three finalists. Lightfoot chose former Dallas Police Chief David Brown in April 2020.

Late that month Lightfoot rearranged the police areas, moving West Side’s 10th, 11th and 15th police districts into a separate Area 4. Cato because the area’s deputy chief. He became chief of the Bureau of Counterterrorism in October 2021. Cato, who’s in his late 50s, retired from the department effective mid-October 2022.

The Chicago Tribune reached Cato by phone Wednesday, but he declined to comment.

CCPSA President Anthony Driver and Remel Terry, one of the West Side commissioners, co-hosted this week’s meeting in Austin, and a few other commission members sat in the audience.

“We would like to hear what are the qualifications, what are the [qualities] the next superintendent of Chicago police must have to be an effective leader,” Terry said in her opening remarks.of line, but as we go through the process, we shall see,” she said.

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