John Escalante Named Interim Police Superintendent After McCarthy Fired

Escalante will serve in the role “until the police board has conducted a thorough search,” Emanuel said

First Deputy Superintendent John Escalante has been named interim Chicago Police Superintendent after Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced Tuesday that Supt. Garry McCarthy has been asked to step down.

Escalante, formerly the 14th District Commander, was named the first deputy superintendent of the Chicago Police Department in October.

The previous first deputy, Alfonza Wysinger, retired after 30 years with the department. He was the highest-ranking African American in the Chicago Police Department.

Escalante has more than 29 years of service and has held numerous senior command positions, including chief of detectives, deputy chief of patrol for Area North and commander of the bomb and arson unit.

His appointment comes at a time when the police department is under scrutiny following the release of dash-cam footage showing the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.

“This is not the end of the problem, but it is the beginning of the solution to the problem,” Emanuel said in a message to Escalante Tuesday. “There are systematic challenges that will require sustained reforms.”

Escalante will serve in the role “until the police board has conducted a thorough search,” Emanuel said.

Police Board President Lori Lightfoot, who was also named to the mayor's new police accountability task force, said the board will nominate three candidates to the mayor following the nation-wide search. 

“I want to add my voice in thanks to Garry McCarthy for his years of service to this great city. We will now move forward with the important task of selecting a new Superintendent,” Lightfoot said in a statement.

Some have called for Wysinger to replace McCarthy.

"Now is the time for fresh eyes and new leadership to confront the challenges the department and our community and our city are facing as we go forward," Emanuel said.

The announcement was made during an 11 a.m. press conference about Emanuel’s new task force on police accountability. Emanuel has said the task force was created to “strengthen the fabric of trust between the Chicago Police Department and the communities it protects.”

Emanuel and McCarthy have faced mounting criticism over the handling of the Laquan McDonald case, with many citing the 13 months it took to charge the officer involved and others questioning McCarthy’s leadership and credibility.

In the days following the release of video showing McDonald’s fatal shooting, McCarthy maintained that Emanuel supported him and said "I've never quit anything in my life."

"I'm 56 years old," McCarthy said. "I don't expect that to change. What I will tell you is the mayor has made it very clear. He has my back."

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