CITY HALL — Latino aldermen Friday called for interim Police Supt. John Escalante to be formally promoted to the position, saying it was "insulting and disrespectful" that he isn't among the three finalists being considered for the post.
Saying Escalante was "qualified enough to steady the ship" at a time of crisis after the Laquan McDonald case after then-Supt. Garry McCarthy was forced out, Ald. George Cardenas (12th) said the City Council's Latino Caucus unanimously supported Escalante's promotion.
The Police Board announced Thursday that it had recommended three finalists to Mayor Rahm Emanuel: Chicago veteran officer Eugene Williams; former Spokane, Wash., chief Anne Kirkpatrick; and former Rochester, N.Y., chief Cedric Alexander.
Cardenas called on Emanuel to "start over again" in the process to select a formal successor to McCarthy, who was fired late last year shortly after the release of the McDonald police shooting video. He called it "insulting and disrespectful" that the Police Board hadn't at very least selected Escalante as a finalist.
Added Ald. Danny Solis (25th): "We are disappointed in what the Police Board has done. I don't see why he's not one of the finalists."
Ald. Milly Santiago (31st) drew parallels with Jesse Ruiz, made interim chief executive officer of Chicago Public Schools before being removed from the Board of Education and shifted to the Park District by Emanuel.
"We are tired of Latinos being used for interims," Santiago said. She called it "a slap in the face" for Hispanics.
She also dismissed calls for an African-American to be appointed to the post to ease concerns from that community, saying, "The African-American community has had their chance to have a black superintendent."
Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th), head of the Council's Black Caucus, responded: "We are looking forward to meeting with all three candidates and making sure that we select the candidate who demonstrates the deepest commitment to overhauling the problematic culture of the Chicago Police Department.
"Whoever becomes the ... superintendent must focus on a transformation that prioritizes transparency and accountability in the department."
Representing all the 11 members of the Latino Caucus, Cardenas said that even if Escalante were held responsible for the spike in shootings and murders this year, at least one Latino should have been a finalist.
"That's not only disappointing," he said. "That's insulting.
"We need to take activism to a new level," Cardenas added. "We are being taken for granted."
Cardenas called for "continuity" in the Police Department and said it is "responding to [Escalante's] leadership."
Santiago said the slight to Escalante would have a "demoralizing" effect on the Department.
While not a member of the Latino Caucus, Ald. Nicholas Sposato (38th) likewise called Friday for Escalante to be considered a finalist.
Lauding the Police Board for its nationwide search for candidates, he nonetheless added, "I believe at this difficult time in Chicago we must select a candidate who is familiar with our communities and the issues facing our police force. That is why today I am asking that acting Supt. John Escalante be added to the recommendation list being sent to Mayor Emanuel."
Escalante has about 30 years of police experience with the department, including serving as first deputy superintendent where he was responsible for all aspects of patrol operations, deployment and criminal investigations.
Escalante's also been the chief of detectives, deputy chief of patrol for Area North and the commander of the Shakespeare District, among other posts. He also leads the Traffic Review Board and is involved with the Chicago Police Memorial Association.
Escalante received a bachelor's degree in criminal justice from Lewis University in Romeoville. He also studied at Northern Illinois University, according to his LinkedIn profile.
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