Harvey top cop placed on leave, likely out
Ex-Chicago officer tapped for rebuild served just 8 months
The Chicago police lieutenant who last year signed on to lead Harvey’s Police Department in an effort to rebuild that beleaguered force appears to be on his way out the door after just eight months on the job.
Eddie Winters, a 25-year CPD veteran and former state representative who was one of newly elected Mayor Christopher Clark’s most prominent early hires last May, was placed on leave Thursday, pending his removal from office, according to a memo the mayor sent all city employees.
The mayor on Friday declined comment on his reason for sidelining the chief, who is not being paid while on leave, saying he wanted to discuss the matter privately with the City Council at Monday’s meeting before making any public statements.
Winters said Friday that he didn’t believe it was in his best interest to comment on the situation at this point.
He said he hadn’t spoken with the mayor since being placed on leave and didn’t know whether there was a chance he might still return to the job.
“I’d really rather see what’s going to happen Monday, because I really don’t know what’s going to happen Monday,” Winters said.
He said he still believed he was up to the challenge of overhauling the department.
“I thought I was a good fit for it and still do,” he said.
Winters, a Chicago resident who had no prior ties to Harvey before taking the chief ’s job, told the Southtown last year that he accepted the position because he “saw the need” in the community and felt he could make a difference.
He quickly shook up the top-heavy department by reassigning its five deputy chiefs and set out to update its standard operating procedures, improve its crime data collection, upgrade its outmoded technology and “train up” its officers.
A devoted proponent of community policing, Winters made engagement with residents a centerpiece of his administration and sought to restore the city’s frayed relationship with its Police Department, which had been raided by federal agents as part of a corruption probe shortly before his appointment.
To bolster the bond between officers and residents, he created a community policing unit, launched a weekly citizens academy and put together a police logo design contest for local elementary school students.
But his brief tenure has been marred by a surge in violence that saw the city’s homicides more than double in 2019.
Harvey has long had some of the highest homicide numbers in the area, but its 25 killings last year — 18 of which occurred after Winters took over — were nearly twice the number that any suburban Cook County municipality has tallied since 2012, records show.
Winters said in November that he expected the new technology and tactics he’d implemented, along with an anticipated increase in manpower, to stem the flow of violence significantly in the coming months.
It appears now, however, that he may not be around to see the impact of his changes come to pass.
A Harvey officer who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution said he and the officers he’d spoken to support Winters and believe his departure would create a “big hit” on morale for an already dispirited department.
Former Dolton police Chief Robert Collins will serve as Harvey’s acting chief in Winters’ absence, Clark said.
The mayor would not discuss his long-term plans for the force, but said Collins was a qualified leader he’d previously considered and believed he could handle the job.