Har­vey top cop placed on leave, likely out

Ex-Chicago of­fi­cer tapped for re­build served just 8 months

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - CHICAGOLAN­D - By Zak Koeske zkoeske@tribpub.com Twit­ter @ZakKoeske

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.


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