• Erin Hegarty
    AUG 15, 2023

    Snelling plans to prioritize officer wellness and training, curbing violence if approved as CPD superintendent

    Mayor Brandon Johnson (left) and Larry Snelling, chief of the Chicago Police Department's Bureau of Counterterrorism, speak during a news conference Monday. [Erin Hegarty/The Daily Line] 

    While his appointment is still contingent on City Council approval, Mayor Brandon Johnson during a Monday news conference officially introduced Larry Snelling, chief of the Chicago Police Department's Bureau of Counterterrorism, as his pick to lead the police department. 

    The selection process that brought forth Snelling as the best person for the job was historic in that it marked the first time a community commission ran the search for superintendent candidates and narrowed down the list of finalists. The search process also saw a record number of people apply for the job. 

    Related: More than 50 people apply for CPD superintendent job, 32 have affiliation with the department 

    Johnson initially announced Snelling as his pick on Sunday, but the two took questions from the media during a Monday news conference.  

    “It is an immense responsibility to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our residents. The challenges we face are quite complex,” Johnson said Monday. “It's multifaceted — to build safe and thriving communities that all Chicagoans deserve. We know that that's not going to happen overnight, but I'm confident by working together and utilizing the full force of government, we can bring the change that our city desperately needs.” 

    Johnson said he is “fully confident” in Snelling’s ability to “unify and strengthen” the police department and its members and that he can “boost their morale and implement constitutionally driven reforms that will ultimately create a safer Chicago.”  

    Snelling will use expertise to “navigate great challenges that we are facing today,” Johnson said. “His ability to build trust between rank-and-file [members of the police department] as well as the public they serve puts him in a class all by himself.” 

    Among other people, Snelling on Monday thanked CPD’s interim Supt. Fred Waller, whom he said he considers a mentor.   

    Snelling highlighted the three priorities he hopes to focus on as superintendent, including officer wellness and training, reducing violence and working with the community.  

    Officer wellness and training is critical because “that’s the commodity we’re putting out into these communities,” Snelling said. “We need to make sure we have the best trained and the most well officers...in order for our officers to love someone else we have to love them.” 

    Snelling on multiple occasions stressed collaboration between the police department and regular Chicagoans. 

    “The police department and our community members are not two separate institutions because they can’t be,” Snelling said. “We have to work together by listening and learning from each other.” 

    The police department needs to listen to people who the city normally doesn’t hear from, Snelling said. “They need to have their voices heard; we need to make sure we work collaboratively.” 

    Snelling responded to questions about his stance on sending police officers to calls for mental health emergencies versus letting mental health professionals be the respondents to the calls. The question came a few weeks after alderpersons held a hearing on Treatment Not Trauma, which in part proposes to eliminate the presence of armed police officers in mental health crisis calls.  

    Related: 'We have a huge possibility': Alderpersons voice support, learn from officials in other cities during Treatment Not Trauma hearing 

    When it comes to whether police should respond to mental health crises, Snelling said “it depends on what the call is.”  

    “If we have mental health calls that can be handled by someone outside of the CPD, that would really be helpful to CPD,” Snelling said.  

    Additionally, Snelling said wants the police department’s “entire promotional process to change.”    

    CPD’s promotional process should “take merit into account for promotions and not just a test,” Snelling said Monday. Considering officers’ merit would ensure that “when we make promotions, we have the right people in the right places,” he said. 

    Johnson announced Snelling as his pick to lead the police department the same weekend Department of Planning and Development Comm. Maurice Cox announced his resignation and Chicago Department of Public Health Comm. Allison Arwady had her final day with the city.   

    Related: DPD’s Maurice Cox latest commissioner to announce resignation, Arwady out as CDPH commissioner  

    This year marked the first time the Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability (CCPSA), whose members began work in 2022, was involved in the superintendent selection process. Commissioners last month sent Johnson a list of three finalists for superintendent.  

    The other two finalists were Angel Novalez, who serves as the police department's chief of constitutional policing and reform, and Shon Barnes, who serves as police chief in Madison, Wisc. 

    Related: Civilian commission sends Johnson 3 finalists for Chicago’s next police superintendent 

    Johnson called the community commission’s search process to find finalists for the superintendent position “thorough and democratic.” 

    Anthony Driver, president of the CCPSA, on Monday said he is confident that Snelling “is the right person for the job.” 

    “He has demonstrated the kind of leadership that our department and our city needs today,” Driver said. “People from all over the city have attested to his leadership abilities and his commitment to the city of Chicago. As a lifelong South Sider, I know that he will make our city proud.” 

    Snelling’s appointment still has to be confirmed by the City Council, whose next meeting is scheduled for Sept. 13.  

    If the police and fire committee approves the appointment, it will move on to the full City Council for final approval.  

    Additionally, the CCPSA is planning to hold public hearings before and after the City Council votes on Snelling’s appointment.  

    The community commission is required to hold a public hearing where commissioners and members of the public can ask Snelling questions prior to a City Council vote on the appointment, according to a CCPSA news release. Chicagoans can also submit questions and comments online. 

    A hearing by the CCPSA has not yet been scheduled, according to the commission’s website. 

    Additionally, if alderpersons approve Snelling’s appointment, the CCPSA is tasked with holding four public hearings where Snelling would address the public and additional questions and comments could be submitted. The four hearings will be spread out over the city’s North, South and West sides to “ensure geographical representation and accessibility,” according to the news release.  

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