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Weis Out; Former Chicago Top Cop Named Interim Superintendent

Weis Out; Former Chicago Top Cop Named Interim Superintendent

Jody Weis said it would be "selfish" to remain in the top office while pursuing career options.

Chicago Tribune via Yellowbrix

March 03, 2011

CHICAGO – His fate ordained by the election last week of Rahm Emanuel as mayor, Chicago police Superintendent Jody Weis abruptly stepped down Tuesday after three years in office, and in a surprise, Terry Hillard, who retired as the city’s top cop in 2003, was named an interim replacement.

Weis’ days were doomed since Emanuel made it clear he would name a new police superintendent after he takes office May 16, but Mayor Richard Daley had wanted Weis to serve until then. Weis instead left office on the day his contract expired, saying it would be “selfish” to remain while he pursued other career opportunities.

The interim appointment of the 67-year-old Hillard was unexpected, though. He was a low-key superintendent who served for 5 1/2 years and agreed to take a leave of absence from his security consulting business while he holds the office until Emanuel appoints a permanent successor.

Weis, 53, an FBI veteran who became the first outsider named to head the tradition-bound department in more than 40 years, struggled to win over rank-and-file officers, but he had his successes.

He was brought in early in 2008 with a clear mandate to improve the department’s image, besmirched by rogue officers who committed robberies and home invasions, as well as by a videotaped beating of a female bartender by an off-duty cop. No major scandals erupted during his time in office.

In his first year, violent crime spiked, but under Weis’ leadership over the next two years, murders fell even as staffing declined sharply. Last year, Chicago recorded the fewest homicides since 1965. Yet the department suffered its deadliest year in a quarter-century in 2010 as six police officers were killed.

Fraternal Order of Police leaders complained that morale sagged under Weis, and he drew ire for wholesale command changes he made soon after taking office and his controversial handling of a police-brutality case.

During the recent mayoral election, he was often maligned over the department’s alleged morale problems. The four major candidates all favored replacing the $310,000-a-year superintendent.

Last week during a news conference announcing his transition team, Emanuel praised Hillard.

Hillard rose through the ranks in 35 years with the department. A street cop who spent time working as an undercover gang-crimes specialist, Hillard was shot while on duty on Valentine’s Day 1975. He also spent time working bodyguard details for Mayors Jane Byrne and Harold Washington.

As superintendent, he was known for a modest, easygoing demeanor that earned him the respect among rank-and-file cops. But his tenure had its rocky moments. He defended detectives after two boys ages 7 and 8 were arrested in the 1998 rape and murder of 11-year-old Ryan Harris, but the charges were quickly dropped after the discovery of semen on the girl’s body.

And the gang crimes section was disbanded in 2000 after federal authorities charged Officer Joseph Miedzianowski with using gang members to run his own drug distribution ring.

Hillard, who co-founded a security consulting business after his retirement from the department, will take a leave from the firm, Hillard Heintze, and temporarily end all other business relationships while he holds the interim appointment.

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