For Pivotal Role of Police Chief, Chicago Mayor Picks Well-Known Insider

Mayor Brandon Johnson of Chicago announced on Sunday that he had chosen Larry Snelling, chief of the bureau of counterterrorism for the Chicago Police Department, as its new police superintendent, perhaps the most consequential appointment of Mr. Johnson’s new administration as the city continues to grapple with violent crime.

“Chief Snelling is a proven leader who has the experience and the respect of his peers to help ensure the safety and well-being of city residents, and address the complex challenges we all face related to community safety,” Mr. Johnson, a Democrat, said in a statement.

The announcement ended a monthslong process conducted in large part by a public commission, whose members winnowed down candidates and listened to input from Chicago residents at community meetings in an effort to bring more transparency to the selection.

Mr. Snelling, 54, will preside over a sprawling department that includes more than 11,700 sworn officers, according to city data, at a time when morale among the rank and file is low and reforms to policing have, in the eyes of many Chicagoans, still fallen short.

In choosing Mr. Snelling, a veteran of the Chicago Police Department and an expert in use-of-force tactics who began his career as a patrol officer in 1992, Mr. Johnson is promoting a known leader who is already well regarded within the department. He served as the commander of the Seventh District in Englewood, a neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago that has one of the highest rates of violent crime in the city.

During his mayoral campaign, Mr. Johnson, who was elected in April, said that he hoped a new superintendent would earn the trust of Chicago residents. Mr. Johnson has also said that the superintendent must be willing to work with newly elected councils of residents that were created to provide feedback on law enforcement in each of the city’s police districts.

“It’s important that the city of Chicago has confidence in the superintendent,” Mr. Johnson said in an interview in May. “That’s someone who understands constitutional policing, but someone who also understands that public safety is an overall goal that cannot be confined to policing.”

The Chicago Police remains under a federal consent decree, an agreement in which an independent monitor oversees reforms: A report in 2017 from the Justice Department described rampant civil rights violations of Black and Hispanic residents, excessive force and inadequate officer training.

A report in June from Maggie Hickey, the leader of the assessment of the Chicago Police Department’s reform efforts, said that the city must “urgently address” problems on staffing, supervision and data collection to comply with the consent decree.

Sharon R. Fairley, a professor at the University of Chicago Law School who teaches criminal procedure and policing, said that the new superintendent faced a host of challenges, including reducing violent crime and instituting those reforms.

“The person coming into this job really does need to redo the organization to deliver the vision that he sees going forward,” she said. “I believe people are really frustrated with the lack of change. We’ve had this consent decree in place for four years now, and there doesn’t seem to be a lot of progress being made.”

The Chicago Police Department has cycled through several superintendents in the past decade. After the 2014 killing of Laquan McDonald, a Black teenager who was shot 16 times by a white officer, the public uproar led Mayor Rahm Emanuel to fire Garry F. McCarthy, the police superintendent at the time.

Eddie Johnson, a veteran of the department who took over as superintendent in 2016, was fired by Mayor Lori Lightfoot, a Democrat, in 2019. Charlie Beck, the leader of the Los Angeles Police Department for close to a decade, served as interim superintendent in Chicago after Mr. Johnson’s departure.

David Brown, the superintendent selected by Ms. Lightfoot in 2020, resigned after she lost re-election this year, leaving the department under interim leadership.

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