Chicago police Cmdr. Angel Novalez, Madison police Chief Shon Barnes and Chicago police Deputy Chief Larry Snelling are the community-led public safety commission's three top picks for police superintendent. Credit: YouTube

CHICAGO — Chicago’s next police superintendent could be a department veteran or Wisconsin police chief.

Larry Snelling, Angel Novalez and Shon Barnes were named finalists for the police department’s top job following a months-long recruitment process.

Snelling is the Chief of Counterterrorism with Chicago police and Novalez is the department’s Chief of Constitutional Policing & Reform. Barnes is Chief of Police in Madison, Wisconsin.

Members of the Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability unveiled the picks Thursday night, the day before a city-imposed deadline to deliver nominees to Mayor Brandon Johnson.

The commission was created by the 2021 Empowering Communities for Public Safety ordinance, following years of organizing to establish more civilian oversight of the police.

Here’s more on the finalists:

  • Larry Snelling has been with Chicago Police for three decades, according to his bio provided by the commission. He has been the commander of the Englewood (7th) police district and a sergeant at the police academy, among several other roles. He’s one of the department’s experts on use of force, redesigned the department’s use of force policy and has testified in federal cases on the issue, according the bio and the Tribune.
  • Angel Novalez joined Chicago Police in 2001, and has worked in various districts and the training academy, according to the Tribune and Sun-Times. Originally from Puerto Rico, his role overseeing Constitutional Policing and Reform puts him in charge of overseeing how the department implements the federal consent degree. He previously was Deputy Chief of Community Policing, Commander of the Office of Community Policing and had various roles in stationed in different neighborhoods, according to his bio.
  • Shon Barnes took over the Madison Police Department in 2021, according to the Tribune and Sun-Times. Before that, he worked for the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, the Chicago oversight agency that investigates serious police misconduct. He also has worked as a high-ranking officer in two North Carolina police departments.

Johnson said in a statement that the “city has reached an important milestone in our search for a new superintendent of the Chicago Police Department.”

“I want to express my gratitude to all those that applied, and commend the CCPSA for its dedicated work throughout this selection process. I am confident that Chicago’s next superintendent will inspire trust, foster collaboration, and lead with integrity. Together we will continue to build a better, stronger, and safer Chicago.” 

Anthony Driver, the interim lead of the civilian commission called it “a historic milestone in Chicago’s journey towards enhanced civilian oversight and effective law enforcement.”

“The nomination of Chief Barnes, Chief Novalez, and Chief Snelling represents our commitment to selecting leaders who can reduce crime and increase safety, inspire positive change, boost officer morale, foster community trust, and navigate the complex issues in policing,” Driver said in a statement.

Mayor Brandon Johnson claps next to CPD Interim Supt. Fred Waller at the Chicago Police Department recruit graduation and promotion ceremony in the Navy Pier Grand Ballroom on June 5, 2023. Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago

Here’s what happens now, according to city ordinance:

  • Johnson has 30 days to nominate any of the finalists for the job. If he declines to choose any of the listed candidates, he must give the commission a written explanation and request three more nominees from the board. The process continues until Johnson chooses a candidate.
  • Once Johnson chooses someone, he must apply for the City Council to approve the candidate.
  • The civilian-led commission will publish a written explanation for why it nominated the candidate. The board also will collect written feedback and questions for the nominee.
  • The civilian-led commission will host a hearing with the finalist to invite public comments and have the finalist answer questions.
  • The City Council’s Committee on Public Safety will hold a meeting to review and vote on the candidate.
  • The full City Council will vote on the nominee.
  • The civilian-led commission will host at least four public hearings with the new superintendent in different parts of the city to answer questions from residents.

The new superintendent will take over for interim Supt. Fred Waller. Johnson appointed the retired chief of patrol to the role in May to replace Eric Carter, who retired from the force May 15 when Johnson took office.

Carter had replaced former Supt. David Brown, who resigned in March when former Mayor Lori Lightfooot lost her reelection bid.

Newly sworn-in officers at the Chicago Police Department recruit graduation and promotion ceremony in the Navy Pier Grand Ballroom on June 5, 2023. Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago

The commission, made up of interim members appointed in August, launched the national search for the superintendent’s job in April, The Triibe reported.

The Sun-Times reported in June the commission had narrowed a field of 53 applicants to six, five of whom are Police Department veterans.

Johnson said during his mayoral campaign that he preferred a candidate from within the ranks who could come into the job with a commitment to Chicago and familiarity with the department, WTTW reported.

The ordinance that created the civilian commission was borne out a compromise between two rival groups of organizers who joined forces after Lightfoot stalled on pledges to pass one of the proposals in her first 100 days in office.

Council members voted 36-13 in 2021 to approve the ordinance creating a seven-member oversight commission charged with drafting and proposing police department policy.

That legislation also led to the creation of the city’s first-ever police district councils, which are elected, three-member board overseeing each of the 22 police districts.

Those new oversight tools followed years of protests against police violence locally and nationally. That organizing intensified in recent years, particularly after then-officer Jason Van Dyke shot 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times in 2014 and then-Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd in 2020.

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