Police brass with Austin ties in running to replace Johnson

Al Wysinger, Barbara West among possible successors to retiring police superintendent

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By Wendell Hutson

Contributing Reporter

Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson's decision to retire by the end of the year has prompted a frenzied search for his replacement. So far, two of the possible candidates on Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot's shortlist to succeed Johnson in the office are high-ranking police with Austin connections. 

So far, Lightfoot has declined to say if she has contacted any potential candidate, but at a City Hall news conference on Nov. 8, she said local and national candidates are being considered, including "those within the Chicago Police Department."

A national search, which Lightfoot said could take between three and six months, has already begun. And until a new superintendent is chosen, former Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck will serve as interim police superintendent; however, he is not being considered for the permanent job, according to Lightfoot. 

"Chief Beck has a well-deserved national reputation for leading the reform era of the Los Angeles Police Department that was rooted in the principles of transparency, accountability, and community partnership," the mayor said. 

"That strategy led to historic results in crime reduction citywide," she added. "Through his renowned transformational community policing, Chief Beck has proven to be a singular leader with the strength and vision to help lay the foundation for the changes our city needs as we move forward into the next era of the Chicago Police Department."

Two candidates who could succeed Johnson permanently are former 15th District Commander Barbara West and Austin native Alfonzo Wysinger, according to multiple media outlets and City Hall sources.  

West, a 25-year veteran with CPD, took over as 15th District commander in 2012. She was reappointed to the 11th District in 2015. Currently, she's the chief of the department's Bureau of Organizational Development, which is responsible for "implementing recommendations from the Mayor's Police Accountability Task Force and the Department of Justice pattern or practice investigation of the Chicago Police Department," among other functions. 

Wysinger, 58, retired in 2015 after 31 years with the department. At the time of his retirement, he was first deputy superintendent and the highest-ranking black in CPD. 

Wysinger had been promoted from deputy chief of detectives to the first deputy superintendent position in 2011, when he was considered for the superintendent job. Wysinger would not confirm or deny he is being considered for the job. As second in command, Wysinger worked alongside former Police Superintendent Gary McCarthy.

News of Wysinger as a possible candidate to run the third largest police department in the country was well received by community leaders.

The Rev. Marshall Hatch, pastor of New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church on the West Side, said the black community appreciates the dedication and service Wysinger provided to them during his tenure as a police officer.

"This man not only cared about the people he served while a police officer, but he established relationships with those people, something not done by many officers working in the black community," he said.

Joining Lightfoot at a Nov. 8 City Hall news conference to announce the temporary hiring of Beck were several community leaders, including West Side Alderman Chris Taliaferro (29th) a retired Chicago police officer. 

"Personally I don't think it would have been a bad idea to appoint an internal candidate like the first deputy superintendent as the interim superintendent. But I don't think changing things up and choosing an external person is a bad thing either," said Taliaferro. "I am very supportive of a permanent superintendent who has risen through the ranks of the Chicago Police Department."

He added that Johnson is leaving with his legacy of reducing crime and helping the community in good shape.

"Certainly Superintendent Johnson is owed much credit for crime reduction and improving the overall moral of the police department," said Taliaferro. "His imprint on this city will forever be remembered."

For his part, Johnson said his time had come to step down and spend more time with his family, including his wife and son — both police officers — who joined him at a Nov. 7 news conference at Police Headquarters. 

"It wasn't until I attended a recent Bears game in London with my family that I realized how good it feels to be a 'normal' person and enjoy life," explained Johnson. "But even before I attended the game, I told the mayor that we may need to sit down and figure out an exit strategy, because it's only so long that I can console mothers that have lost their children to senseless gun violence."

Lightfoot praised Johnson for his commitment to the city and leadership as superintendent since being appointed in December 2016.

"Superintendent Johnson has left this city in better shape than when he received it and for that we all should be internally grateful," said Lightfoot.

CONTACT: michael@austinweeklynews.com  

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Email: wreporter@yahoo.com

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