Beck announces command staff shake-up
Sweeping changes at CPD prompted by restructuring
A day after unveiling a massive restructuring, interim Chicago police Superintendent Charlie Beck announced the biggest shake-up in the department’s command staff in years, moving more than 30 people into new positions.
The sweeping changes were prompted by a reorganization that shifted hundreds of specialized officers and detectives to patrol districts to better combat violence in the city’s neighborhoods. Beck’s plan also created a new office of equal stature to carry policing reforms required by a federal consent decree.
On the crime-fighting end, much of the responsibility falls on a deputy chief in each of five geographical areas, as well as the commanders in the city’s 22 districts.
But the sweeping change was not without hiccups. The department in a news release named Felipe Garcia the new commander of the South Chicago District. But the decision was rescinded Friday after reporters began asking questions about Garcia’s unusual rise up the ranks.
As a rank-and-file officer, he had been appointed to then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s security detail. Later, he was promoted to commander of the security team, skipping over the ranks of sergeant, lieutenant and captain. When Emanuel left office last May, he acted as the Police Department’s liaison to the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications — a commander-level post.
Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi earlier Friday acknowledged that Beck had “grappled” with the decision of giving Garcia such a high-profile post, but ultimately felt “high confidence” in Garcia leading a district in which shootings jumped by more than 30% in 2019 — a year that otherwise saw declines in violence citywide.
But by Friday night, Guglielmi said in a statement that Garcia would not be taking the post. Beck appointed Lt. Robert Rubio, a 25-year department veteran who headed a gang enforcement unit, to command the district instead.
“Following a reassessment by Command Staff, Supt. Beck has decided to leave Cmdr. Garcia in his capacity at OEMC,” Guglielmi wrote. “Cmdr. Garcia has extensive experience in these large-scale activations and he will continue to serve the Department to ensure the coordination and collaboration for joint operations at major events.”
Among other changes, Ernest Cato was named deputy chief of Area 4, one of the most violent parts of the city that covers the Ogden, Austin and Harrison Districts on the West Side. The 29-year department veteran most recently served as a deputy chief overseeing patrol operations in nine districts that covered the North, Northwest and West sides. He also once served as the commander of the Austin District.
Eric Carter, a 27-year department veteran and a longtime member of the command staff, was promoted to chief of the new Counter-terrorism and Special Operations bureau, overseeing SWAT, the bomb squad, the Intelligence Unit and joint task forces with the FBI. He will also be in charge of counterterrorism efforts at O’Hare and Midway airports and throughout the CTA “L” system.
Brendan Deenihan was promoted to chief of detectives after holding the bureau’s No. 2 post in recent years. The 22-year department veteran will oversee, among other things, a new citywide homicide detective unit and detectives who investigate financial crimes, auto thefts and arson. He will also be in charge of units that work with the federal law enforcement and focus on long-term gang, narcotic and guntrafficking investigations.
Aside from Rubio’s appointment, Beck replaced the commanders in seven of the 22 districts.
One of those new commanders, Jacob Alderden of the Central District, which covers the Loop and South Loop areas, was among a group of officers who received the city’s highest honors for heroism for their response to the 2018 shooting at Mercy Hospital & Medical Center that claimed the lives of Tamara O’Neal, an emergency room doctor; Dayna Less, a pharmacist; and Chicago police Officer Samuel Jimenez.
To carry out reforms in the fallout over the fatal police shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, Beck created the Office of Constitutional Policing and Reform, and promoted Deputy Superintendent Barbara West to its head, making her the highestranking African American woman in the department’s history.
Her No. 2 in charge will be James O’Donnell, a 33-year department veteran who most recently served as a deputy chief responding to major incidents around the city. He previously worked as commander of the Chicago Lawn District in October 2014 when McDonald was shot 16 times by an officer as the teen walked away from police with a knife in his hand in the Southwest Side district.
O’Donnell, however, was not implicated in any wrongdoing in investigations of officers’ conduct that night.
In a statement, Beck lauded O’Donnell’s experience, saying in part that he has “institutional knowledge of departmental policy and street operations,” and his “unwavering commitment to ethical policing positions him to be a formidable leader.”