Hillard Returns As Police Superintendent
UPDATED 03/02/11 4:40 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) – Former Supt. Terry Hillard is back in charge at the Chicago Police Department nearly eight years after he left the post, as the departure of Supt. Jody Weis draws mixed feelings.
As CBS 2’s Susanna Song reports, Hillard arrived at Police Headquarters, 3510 S. Michigan Ave., around 9 a.m. Tuesday, to take the helm for the first time since the fall of 2003. He has stepped in as an interim replacement, after Weis stepped down at the end of the day Tuesday.
“I didn’t sleep last night,” Hillard said Tuesday morning as he returned. “It feels good; this is a dynamite department; a very dynamic department, and a department I love dearly.”
But Hillard has said repeatedly that he does not intend to resume the job permanently.
“No. N-O, no. No,” he said when asked if that might happen. “Read my lips. No.”
As one officer said Wednesday afternoon, “Welcome back, boss.” That seemed to be the general sentiment at Chicago Police Headquarters on Wednesday after Hillard returned to the helm of the department.
As CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov reports, Hillard’s first day as interim superintendent has been a busy one, getting reacquainted with the job he once held for five years.
“We need to move ahead,” Hillard said as he worked a packed schedule on Wednesday. “A lot of meetings, you know, getting briefed. And the cell phone is constantly ringing.”
Mayor Richard M. Daley has said he will reach out to Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel about starting the process of having the Chicago Police Board launch a nationwide search for a new full-time superintendent.
“You transition for the sake of the citizens. You want to make sure there’s a good transition,” Daley said.
Hillard also said his focus would be on ensuring a smooth transition to a permanent replacement as superintendent.
“My job is to come in and make sure there’s a smooth, seamless transition and make sure that the neighborhoods are still kept safe and these men and women continue to do the job they’ve been doing,” Hillard said. “Morale, you know, we will address that issue as we go along.”
Low morale was often cited as a reason officers fought Weis’s leadership. Hillard had the respect of the department during his last stint as top cop and he apparently still does. So what would he say to the rank and file?
“I want them to know that, yep, it’s a new day. You’ve got somebody else that’s in the chair, but the program hasn’t changed,” Hillard said.
Daley had hoped Weis would stay on until May, when Daley himself will hand over the reins to Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel. But Weis decided to leave when his contract expired on Tuesday.
Daley said Wednesday that Weis was pursuing jobs in the private sector and had decided to leave.
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“This was going on for a couple weeks with him, he told me. He was undecided whether or not he wanted to stay, he had offers coming in and he just saw fit to do it. It was just a personal decision,” Daley said.
The mayor also refuted reports that Weis declined to stay on until the end of Daley’s term in office because he couldn’t get a written contract extension.
“No, no. It had nothing to do with that,” Daley said. “No, It didn’t matter.”
The mayor also said he alone decided to reappoint Hillard, without any involvement from Mayor-elect Emanuel.
Upon receiving the call from Daley on Tuesday, Hillard said he couldn’t turn down the request.
“I appreciate he gave me the chance in 1998, and we did it for five and a half years, and I left, and on his way out, he called on me again – and you never refuse the mayor,” he said.
Hillard’s duties started immediately. He said they included “a number of meetings; meeting with the command staff, and then try to meet with some of the middle management, and then hopefully within the next couple of days, I’ll start talking to rank and file and let them know there’s been a change. But we’ve got to move ahead – summer is coming ahead and we have to get ready.”
As for the impact he might make in the next couple of months, Hillard said: “You know, my job is just to get here and make sure they continue doing the things that they’re doing. There’s not going to be any major changes. Crime is down, and let’s hope it continues to go down.”
Hillard, a native of South Fulton, Tenn., moved to Chicago as a boy. He served in Vietnam with the U.S. Marine Corps, and entered the Chicago Police Training Academy in 1968.
After completing training, Hillard first became a patrol officer, then a gang crimes specialist, and he was shot twice in the line of duty, according to the History Makers.
He served as part of the mayoral security detail under Jane Byrne and Harold Washington, and was later promoted to a sergeant at the Intelligence Division, then commander of the Gresham District. He then became the first ever African-American chief of detectives, according to the History Makers.
Hillard was a lieutenant in the gang crimes and narcotics unit in 1998 when Mayor Daley appointed him as superintendent. He replaced Matt Rodriguez, who stepped down after five years after a Chicago Tribune report revealed he was close friends with a convicted felon.
Hillard retired in 2003, and was replaced by his first deputy superintendent, Phil Cline. Since 2004, Hillard has been one of the principals in the private security firm management and advisory firm Hillard Heintze LLC, which boasts offices in six U.S. cities and claims capabilities in the Middle East and in Central and South America.
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Cline, in turn, resigned in 2007, in the wake of a scandal sparked by Officer Anthony Abbate, who was caught on surveillance video brutally beating a female bartender half his size at a bar on West Belmont Avenue. Meanwhile, six officers from the later-disbanded Special Operations Section faced criminal charges in a separate scandal.
The worldwide outrage and scorn from the scandal led Mayor Daley to reach outside the city and pick Weis to replace Cline as superintendent. Immediately, Weis said he would not tolerate misconduct in the department.
But soon after Weis took over in 2008, he drew sharp criticism from rank-and-file officers, who felt he wasn’t on their side and said morale quickly dropped after he took office.
Among Weis’ most unpopular decisions among the rank-and-file was subjecting Officer Bill Cozzi to a new federal prosecution and prison time after the officer had already been convicted and sentenced to probation for beating a man in a wheelchair.
In September, hundreds of rank-and-file officers marched outside of Police Headquarters, 3510 S. Michigan Ave., demanding that Weis be let go.
But Weis always maintained that the streets were safer after he took over, and pointed out that homicides were at their lowest level in 45 years last year. He also had his supporters in City Hall.
“I think he was one of the best,” said Ald. Anthony Beale (9th). “Regardless of how people felt about him, the bottom line is results, and he produced results.”
As for Hillard, Beale hopes the interim superintendent will take the initiative and move more police to high crime districts – even though Hillard is only an interim appointee.
LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Steve Miller reports
During the mayoral race, Emanuel and all the other major candidates said they would replace Weis.
On Tuesday, Emanuel praised Daley’s decision to name Hillard to the post. The mayor-elect has had praise for Hillard in recent days, and calls him effective in fighting crime.
Emanuel also thanked Weis for his service.
Hillard also made a point of congratulating Weis on a good job, although in an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times’ Michael Sneed published Wednesday, he took Weis to task over low department morale and for taking “all the good cops” out of patrol and putting them in “special sections and units.”
Weis did not discuss his decision to step down with reporters. But he released a statement: “I firmly believe it would be selfish of me to continue in this position as I actively seek new career opportunities. It is critical to have someone in place as soon as possible to prepare for the summer, our most challenging time of year.”