Chicagoans who attended a South Side community forum on the police board's search for a new superintendent grew frustrated during the meeting Tuesday night at Kennedy King College, with at least one person saying the event amounted to "just a show."
"This meeting has made me sick to my stomach because all them" on the Chicago Police Board "are the mayor's puppets," said activist Ja'Mal Green. "Whoever's the new superintendent is going to be the mayor's puppet."
"It's just a show," he added.
Selection of the new police superintendent "needs to be in the community's hands," Green said. "We need to pick who the superintendent is, and that is what's important."
The Police Board's search for a new Chicago police chief comes after Mayor Rahm Emanuel fired Garry McCarthy from the post last month following the court-ordered release of the Laquan McDonald shooting video.
Emanuel tapped CPD First Deputy John Escalante to take over as the interim police chief while the Police Board conducts its superintendent candidate search, which kicked off December 10.
The Police Board, which is responsible for selecting and presenting three police superintendent nominees to the mayor for his consideration, is accepting applications until Friday.
Chicago Police Board President Lori Lightfoot said the board hopes to have the nominees presented to the mayor by the end of February. She added that the public's comments and questions will be integrated into the board's selection process.
Attendees, however, said many Chicagoans lack faith in both Emanuel and the mayor-appointed police board as the city continues to reel from the McDonald shooting and several other police misconduct controversies.
"The city has lost faith in our mayor," said Darryl Smith of the Englewood Political Task Force and a candidate for 6th district Illinois state representative.
"This board has been handpicked and hand appointed by the mayor, so where is our faith in this board?"
Retired Chicago police officer Patricia Hill added: "There has to be a stopgap between you and the mayor."
Some audience members echoed calls for Emanuel to resign. At one point, the audience counted aloud from one to 16, representing the number of times police officer Jason Van Dyke shot 17-year-old McDonald in October 2014.
Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court Dorothy Brown was among the elected officials at the forum.
The disproportionate number "of African Americans that are incarcerated in Chicago each year and the high-crime areas that are mostly in the African-American community screams out for the need for an African-American police superintendent," Brown said.
Doris Lewis was another audience member who called for an African-American police superintendent. She also said applicants for the superintendent position should be asked whether they understand what racism and white supremacy is "and how it works."
"I say the next superintendent, I would like for that person to be black, but that black person is going to have to understand this system of racism and white supremacy," she said. "We're being shot down like dogs ... It's because we are black. You all have been on this police board. How many young black men have we had shot? What have we really done? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. So if we as black people do not understand this system of racism and white supremacy, what it is, how it works, everything is going to be confusing to us, and it's gonna be a waste of time."
At the beginning of the forum, an attendee asked whether the police board could work with the U.S. Justice Department, as part of the federal agency's ongoing investigation of the CPD. The attendee suggested that the Department of Justice could be able to identify possible changes that might need to be made to the police union contract.
"That contract protects police that kill unarmed black people," said activist Zakiyyah Muhammad. "They need to open up the Fraternal Order of Police contract and change it."
Lightfoot is on Emanuel's new task force, which was created after the release of the McDonald shooting video. The formation of the group is meant to improve police accountability, training and oversight. She said the task force is looking into any impediments that might negatively affect the police department's ability to hold officers accountable in instances of misconduct. As for the Justice Department, Lightfoot said the agency is "absolutely going to be looking at the collective bargaining agreement" as part of its investigation of the CPD and will make recommendations if deemed necessary.