CHICAGO (CBS) — The newly named interim Chicago police superintendent, Charlie Beck, is an “outsider.” He’s expected to keep the department on track, until a permanent superintendent takes over.
But the interim post is not new to Chicago. In recent years, John Escalante held the title of acting superintendent — back in 2016 before Eddie Johnson got the job.
Escalante doesn’t have advice for Beck other than to listen: to his command staff, the rank and file and the people who live in the city.
“I’m going to continue to do what I have to do over the next couple weeks until that permanent person is named,” he said in 2016.
The man standing over Escalante’s shoulder when he said those words — Eddie Johnson — would go on to become that permanent superintendent. Escalante was passed over for the job.
“Do I think I could have done a good job? Yes I do,” he said. “But I’m also happy for my friend Eddie Johnson. I think he did a very good job.”
Escalante held the job in the weeks following the release of the infamous Laquan McDonald video, which showed the teenager being shot 16 times by then-officer Jason Van Dyke.
CBS 2’s Charlie De Mar spoke to Escalante by phone about what it takes to fill in as Chicago top cop.
“I got a phone call from the mayor and he literally said, ‘John, I just asked for (then-superintendent Garry McCarthy)’s resignation and until further notice I’m gonna need you to step up and be the acting superintendent,’” Escalante recounted.
But Beck comes in as an outsider — which could present a challenge, says Escalante.
“One of the major cons to that is not knowing the department and not knowing the city,” Escalante said. “That is a huge learning curve.”
“I don’t just love cops, I am cops. I know that once CPD understands that, they will understand me,” Beck said.
Beck retired as chief of the Los Angeles Police Department last year and will oversee CPD until a superintendent is tapped.
“That is the only tool in your trade is how much you are trusted,” Beck said.
But Black Lives Matter L.A. feels differently, circulating a letter highlighting what they call a high number of police officer shootings and in-custody deaths under Beck’s watch.
“All of the news coverage that we’ve seen has labeled him this reformer, this progressive. But what we experienced here in Los Angeles was anything but,” said Melina Abdullah, co-founder of L.A. Black Lives Matter.
“This job comes with detractors,” Beck said.
John Escalante is now Chief Escalante — no longer with CPD but overseeing the police department for Northeastern Illinois University.