Alderman: Former Supt. Terry Hillard To Be Named Interim Chief

Updated 03/01/11 – 10:03 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — Jody Weis will be stepping down as Chicago’s top cop at the end of the day on Tuesday, the last day of his contract as Chicago police superintendent. Former top cop Terry Hillard will take his place.

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“Serving as the Superintendent of the Chicago Police Department has been an honor and a great privilege,” Weis said in a written statement Tuesday afternoon. “I thank Mayor Daley, and the residents of Chicago, for this opportunity of a lifetime.”

Mayor Richard M. Daley’s office announced Tuesday afternoon former Supt. Terry Hillard is being named interim superintendent for the final two months of Daley’s term in office. Hillard served as superintendent from 1998 until his retirement in 2003.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780 Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports on Weis’ departure.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Steve Miller reports on Hillard’s appointment.

Mayor Richard M. Daley had indicated on Monday that he wanted to keep Weis on board until Mayor-Elect Rahm Emanuel takes office in May, but Weis announced that he would step down after his contract expires on Tuesday.

“I firmly believe it would be selfish of me to continue in this position as I actively seek new career opportunities,” Weis stated. “Additionally, it is critical to have someone in place as soon as possible to prepare for the summer, our most challenging time of year.”

CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov talked with Terry Hillard about resuming his old job. A job he left in 2003.

“What I really want you to know is this is temporary,” said Terry Hillard. And he made that very clear as he talked about being tapped to once again run Chicago’s Police Department.

Hillard said he was surprised when Daley asked him to do it. But he was honored too.

Hillard spoke outside his south side home just hours after Weis left police headquarters, with a wave, for the last time today. As late as last night, it seemed Mayor Daley expected Weis to stay on the job for the next two months, even without a contract. Instead, Weis stepped down saying, “I firmly believe it would be selfish of me to continue in this position as I actively seek new career opportunities.” That’s when Hillard got the call.

“When the Mayor reaches out to you and is asking for your help, you gotta do this,” Hillard said his daughter told him. Hillard said it all came about today.

Weis’ three years on the job were rocky at times. Much of the rank and file openly fought his leadership. But other city leaders staunchly supported him.

“I think he was one of the best,” said Alderman Anthony Beale, the former head of the council’s police and fire commission. “Regardless of how people felt about him. The bottom line is results. And he produced results.”

Hillard says he plans to talk to the command staff, the rank and file and other officials when he reports to work Wednesday. He called Weis a good guy but wouldn’t rate his performance in the top spot.

Both Mayor Daley and Rahm Emanuel thanks Jody Weis for his time on the job and the reduction of violent crime on Weis’ watch.

“I’d like to thank the outstanding members the Chicago Police Department for their professionalism, and dedication to public service as well as the residents that make up the communities we serve,” he added. “It has given me great pride to have been part of such an outstanding organization and to have had the ability to serve the residents of the City of Chicago.”

Daley thanked Weis for his service in a written statement on Tuesday.

“He has been successful at both implementing new strategies in our fight against crime and assuring that the conduct of our police officers meets the highest standards so that our residents have confidence that the Police Department is protecting and serving them,” Daley said.

The mayor also had high praise for Hillard, who will officially start as interim superintendent on Wednesday.

“Terry’s knowledge and understanding of the police department is outstanding,” Daley said. “He will ensure that the needs of our residents continue to be met and that the transition to the new administration is smooth and seamless.”

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Emanuel lauded Daley’s selection of Hillard to take Weis’ place.

“I want to praise Mayor Daley today for moving quickly to fill the vacancy and appointing Terry Hillard as Interim Police Superintendent. This was not a position the city could afford to leave open or a department we could afford to leave adrift without leadership,” Emanuel said in a written statement. “Terry’s previous service to the city made clear his commitment to the job and his effectiveness in fighting crime. We owe him a debt of gratitude for returning when our police department and city need him. Jody Weis also deserves our thanks for his service and for reducing violent crime during his tenure.”

Daley reportedly declined to offer Weis a written contract extension to stay on through the end of Daley’s term, and Weis was unwilling to stay without one.

Weis has been at the helm of the Chicago Police Department since February 2008 and his $310,000-a-year contract with the city expires on Tuesday.

Although the city’s homicide rate and most other crime rates have declined under his watch, Weis has always been unpopular with rank-and-file officers.

Morale dropped significantly under Weis, a problem exacerbated by a police manpower shortage.

As of late last year, a two-year hiring slowdown had left the Chicago Police Department more than 2,300 officers a day short of authorized strength, counting vacancies, medical leave and limited duty.

Daley has taken steps to hire hundreds of new officers before his term ends, but even those plans would still leave the department well short of full strength.

During the race for mayor, Emanuel and the other candidates for mayor had pledged to replace Weis if they were elected.

But recently, Emanuel has been treading more carefully on the issue.

“I’ll have more to say about that later,” Emanuel said when asked about Weis on Tuesday before it was confirmed Weis would be leaving. “I think it’s very important, though, that we focus on what’s very important, and that’s reducing crime. And I have a strategy for that, and the mayor and I had a good discussion on a host of issues today.”

In recent weeks, Weis has touted his accomplishments as the city’s top cop, including the city’s declining homicide rate and a drop in the number of civilian complaints filed against police officers.

But Weis had declined to speculate on his future after his contract runs out.

“My contract runs (out) on March the first, so we probably could just leave it at that,” Weis told reporters at a Sunday news conference on another topic.

“When this positions ends, then I’ll probably look into doing something else,” he continued. “Hopefully I can do something here in Chicago — if not, I’ll go where a career would lead me.”

Weis, a former FBI official, took his post in 2008 under Daley, at a time when the Police Department was plagued by scandals.

Most infamously at the time, Officer Anthony Abbate had been caught on videotape beating a female bartender half his size in a Northwest Side tavern. The surveillance tape was shown around the world, and lent to a perception that Chicago Police officers were out of control.

As an outsider, he has had a rocky relationship with the Police Department’s rank and file, as well as the residents of crime-plagued neighborhoods.

In September, hundreds of rank-and-file officers marched outside of Police Headquarters, 3510 S. Michigan Ave., demanding that he be let go.

Rank-and-file officers have said morale dropped after Weis took office, particularly after he subjected 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 a scathing criticism of Weis in a blog posting last year, Lt. John Andrews said officers feared similar reprisals for doing their jobs, and thus “have reduced their proactive performance and now only contribute at minimum levels.”

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But Weis told reporters on Sunday that he believes Chicago streets are safer since he took over.