Former Chicago Police Superintendent Richard Brzeczek said there is no question the department's code of silence is real. In an exclusive interview with NBC 5 Chicago, Brzeczek said it’s like a "cancer" and exists today as well as during his tenure.
At 37 years old when he served in the early 1980s, Brzeczek was the department's youngest superintendent. He was a controversial top cop for a controversial mayor: Jane Byrne.
Although he lives in Florida now, Brzeczek is currently in Chicago testifying as an expert witness in a trial involving the code of silence, which he says "has always existed in the police department."
"It existed during my time," Brzeczek said. "The bad thing about it is the majority of police officers are good people and in their heart they don’t like it."
Brzeczek said that during his tenure as superintendent, he appeared at police-involved shootings no matter when or where they took place to ensure investigations were conducted properly.
"I was there for two reasons. One: to let them know that I care about it, and No. 2: to make sure no shenanigans,” Brzeczek said.
Brzeczek also said there were signs that former top cop Gary McCarthy wasn’t the best choice.
"I was never properly convinced that McCarthy was properly vetted," Brzeczek said. "When he came from Newark, he left when the department was under a DOJ civil rights investigation. That should have been a red flag."
One of the hallmarks of McCarthy’s leadership was the Compstat Meetings — bringing in police command staff to analyze crime hot spots. Brzeczek said McCarthy’s style undercut his effectiveness.
"He would engage in behavior screaming at them," Brzeczek said. "Is that the way you talk to high-ranking executives?"
Very soon, the police board will announce three finalists for the next superintendent; one name tossed around is Dr. Cedric Alexander, a current chief in suburban Atlanta. Brzeczek, however, would prefer someone with a connection to Chicago.
The three finalists for top cop will be forwarded to Mayor Rahm Emanuel within the next 10 days. Whomever the mayor chooses, the city council must approve his pick.