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The Hunt for the Next Police Superintendent Starts With These Eight Essay Questions

Community concerns come to the fore in the Police Board of Chicago’s application.

The city is on the hunt for a replacement for former police superintendent Garry McCarthy.   Photo: Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune

The Police Board of Chicago has started the search for its next superintendent. Want to apply? The only official requirement is Chicago residency or the willingness to move here.

That’s just one of many revelations found in the application for police superintendent that the Police Board just posted to its website. Of course, the board stipulates that, while not requirements, past police superintendents have typically obtained a bachelor’s degree, completed significant graduate-level coursework, and had some experience as a high-level executive in a law-enforcement agency.

What else? Applicants need to provide four references, four letters of recommendation, and answers to eight essay questions, about half of which relate to accountability and integrity. For example, the very first question:

1. What does accountability mean in the context of policing?

  • What are the best practices for early warning systems for police officers?
  • How do you assess and address bias-based policing? How does the message get articulated to the police force and executed throughout the organization and down to the level of officers on the beat?

And then there’s the third:

3. There have been a number of recent highly publicized issues involving use of force by police officers both in Chicago and around the nation. Please discuss your philosophy regarding:

  • The use of force by the police; Investigations regarding police use of force (appropriate investigative body, transparency, timing, independence of investigators versus internal department investigation, etc.); and
  • The so-called “militarization” of modern police departments.

And the fourth:

4. What does community engagement and policing mean to you?

  • Define the terms in your words.
  • What has been your experience with community policing?
  • To the extent that it differs, what has been your experience with community engagement?
  • What is your philosophy regarding “community policing” and how have you executed on that philosophy?
  • What is your philosophy regarding community engagement and how have you executed on that philosophy?
  • The City of Chicago has been suffering a significant distrust between the community and the Police Department. How do you propose to address this distrust?

One challenge, of course, might be to to fit answers to all these questions into just three double-spaced pages per question.

The essay section is also a marked change from the application offered in 2011, which placed more emphasis on the candidates’ accomplishments and less on issues like police integrity and community engagement.

Interested candidates have until January 15 to apply. But take note: “The use of elaborate binding is discouraged.”


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