GSWNH_ChiefSnelling_081823

Cautious optimism about top cop nominee

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Want Snelling free of City Hall politics

By Tim Hadac

Southwest Side reaction to the selection CPD Counterterrorism Chief Larry Snelling to be the city’s next police superintendent was a mix of cautious optimism and “show me” skepticism.

GSWNH ChiefSnelling 081823

CPD Chief Larry Snelling works the crowd at the annual Bud Billiken Parade. A lifelong Chicagoan, Snelling is a native of the Englewood neighborhood. – Supplied photo

“From speaking with many CPD rank and file, I learned they were happy the top pick was someone from within the department,” Garfield Ridge Neighborhood Watch President Al Cacciottolo told the Greater Southwest News-Herald. “I’m told he is well respected by many. So we will have to see how it all turns out. As we all know, the department needs someone to have their backs.”

He added the GRNW plans to invite Snelling to a meeting in the months ahead.

Snelling’s nomination is subject to City Council approval, although insiders say it should be a fairly easy task.

Most Southwest Side aldermen and other elected officials withheld public comment, but two weighed in briefly.

“I’m glad the mayor has chosen a Chicagoan who knows the city and the police department,” 13th Ward Ald. Marty Quinn said. “I look forward to hearing more from Chief Snelling directly.”

“Chief Snelling has impressive qualifications for leading the department, but the public deserves to hear about his plans and goals, as those discussions have all been had behind closed doors thus far,” 23rd Ward Ald. Silvana Tabares told the Greater Southwest News-Herald. “We need an independent crime-fighter to lead the department, not somebody who will simply bend to the will of community activists and leftist politicians who prioritize criminals over victims.”

Concern about City Hall politics

Mayor Brandon Johnson’s selection of Snelling follows a 120-day, nationwide search process by the Community Commission for Public and Accountability. Snelling was selected by the Commission as one of three finalists submitted to Johnson. Two of the three are CPD veterans. The third was a police chief from Wisconsin.

The selection of Snelling was applauded loudly by Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 President John Catanzara, who simply posted, “Congratulations to Chief Snelling!!!” on the FOP Facebook page.

Catanzara’s comment was interesting coming from the firebrand FOP leader, who spent much of the last four years crossing swords with then-Mayor Lori Lightfoot. It also contrasted with comments from several on the FOP Facebook page, who criticized Snelling as a “clout baby” political insider with relatively little street experience.

A few Southwest Side neighborhood leaders also weighed in and sounded notes of caution about Snelling being a stand-up cop and avoiding being compromised by City Hall politics.

“I’m glad to see a promotion from within. There are many great leaders in our own Chicago Police Department,” said Clearing Night Force President Judy Ollry. “However, if the mayor has a say in decisions and doesn’t let Chief Snelling lead his men and women, then it doesn’t make a difference who is in charge.

“If he’s going to be the mayor’s puppet, then the department won’t change,” she continued. “Officer morale is low and they are overworked beyond their limits. Change has to happen. Continual training should be given and it’s time to really invest in our officers. Make people want to become a Chicago Police officer again. [CPD’s] statistics of how many people take the test is proof. Good luck to Chief Snelling. It’s time for a positive change in the department.”

Jason Huff is one of three elected members of the Chicago Lawn (8th) District Police Council. He also serves as president of the Scottsdale Neighborhood Watch and the Garfield Ridge Civic League.

“I want to congratulate Chief Larry Snelling,” Huff told the Greater Southwest News-Herald. “Many, including myself, are hoping he can raise up morale and elevate our officers to new heights at a time when it is truly needed–while continuing to help the city and communities in need reduce crime that has drawn negative attention by the media, politicians, and others.

“I hope [Snelling] will stay true to battling crime and not fall into the political banter that seems to take hold of previous superintendents. He seems like a respected leader by other officers, which is great.”

Archer Heights Civic Association President Thomas S. Baliga, a longtime supporter of CPD’s rank and file but critic of police brass, recalled the time in April 2018 when then-CPD Supt. Eddie Johnson came before the AHCA membership and appeared to tell a lie—or at least make a vow that went unfulfilled.

As reported by the Greater Southwest News-Herald, “…Johnson promised to work with Chicago Lawn (8th) District Commander Ronald Pontecore and his senior staff to ‘put together a plan to try to [eradicate prostitution on Cicero Avenue] once and for all… so that the next time I come back here, I want to hear you clapping for the job that we have done.’”

Minutes after that, Baliga, in part, “praised Johnson for his frankness and willingness to meet the prostitution problem head on…’His vow is music to our ears, but our concern—as always—is the follow-through, whether the police commitment will be ongoing and effective—not just a one-and-done.’”

It turned out to be a one-and-done, for the most part. Johnson never spoke before the AHCA again. And Johnson’s plan, if there was one, was never shared with the AHCA or the Greater Southwest News-Herald.

This week, Baliga said of the Snelling pick, “I’m cautiously optimistic. [Snelling] grew up in Englewood, so at least we would have a native Chicagoan in command of the ranks. He’s unknown to a lot of people, myself included. But based on his published background, I would expect him to be able to hit the ground running and very quickly deal with this raging lawlessness of shootings, carjackings, mass-group store thefts, as well as intersection takeovers, looting and property destruction that has gripped our great city.

“This is the enormous, pressing task before him,” Baliga concluded. “And I hope he—‘the new sheriff in town’–rises to the occasion. Time will tell if our mayor made the right decision. And that time frame is pressing and immediate.”

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