DeKalb’s top cop: Chicago job offer yanked at last minute

Did DeKalb County Public Safety Director Cedric Alexander’s disclosure to a reporter torpedo his bid to lead Chicago’s police department?

It’s one of many reasons that reportedly influenced Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s last-minute decision to bypass Alexander, one of three finalists for the job, in favor of an insider supported by the City Council’s Black and Hispanic caucuses.

Alexander told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that, on Thursday, Emanuel offered him the position of Chicago police superintendent. A formal announcement was planned for this Wednesday, said Alexander, who was widely reported to be the front-runner.

Two days later, the offer was rescinded. According to The Chicago Sun-Times, Emanuel was "infuriated" after learning Alexander had told a reporter the job was his.

Alexander said he would not attempt to decipher Emanuel’s decision-making process.

“I’ve moved on,” he said. “We’ve still got a lot of work to do (in DeKalb).”

Although his contract is set to expire in December, it appears Alexander is secure. The position of DeKalb public safety director, however, is less so.

A 2013 special grand jury, impaneled to investigate DeKalb's "culture of corruption," recommended the job be eliminated. County Commissioner Kathy Gannon said it was widely believed that, had Alexander left, his position would not have been filled.

Now, that decision will be left to DeKalb’s next CEO, expected to be either Michael Thurmond or Connie Stokes.

Thurmond told The AJC that, if elected, he would push to retain Alexander.

“He’s done a phenomenal job stabilizing the department and building a more robust relationship with the community,” Thurmond said. “If I get the chance I wouldn’t have any hesitation in asking him to stay on.”

Stokes said she wouldn’t comment on future personnel decisions but offered praise for Alexander.

“He’s done a great job,” said Stokes, adding she has long supported keeping the public safety director position.

For his part, Alexander said he hopes to be in DeKalb for “a long time.”

“This was a very unique opportunity,” he said of the Chicago opening.

It wasn't the first time Alexander had sought to leave DeKalb. In December 2013, he considered a return to his old job as Rochester, New York's police chief, a position he held in 2005.

Thurmond said Alexander’s public flirtations with outside municipalities shouldn’t count against him.

“There’s a lot of employees who’ve tried to leave DeKalb,” Thurmond said. “I think the fact that other departments want him speaks highly of his reputation.”

In Chicago, it appears a number of factors conspired against Alexander. The Chicago Tribune reported Emanuel bristled when it appeared Alexander was being pushed on him. The newspaper said Lori Lightfoot, president of the police board that winnowed down the applicants for superintendent to three finalists, had lobbied hardest for Alexander, a former Miami-Dade County police officer, deputy commissioner of the New York State Police and security director for the Transportation Security Administration at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.

According to The Sun-Times, former Chicago Police Superintendent Terry Hillard and influential Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey also endorsed him.

Selling an outsider would prove tough, however. The Sun-Times said Emanuel’s decision to appoint Eddie Johnson, currently the Chicago PD’s chief of patrol, was “aimed at boosting cops’ morale and restoring the community’s trust.”

The last superintendent, Garry McCarthy, was fired in the aftermath of the Laquan McDonald police shooting scandal. McDonald, an African-American teen, was shot 16 times by Officer Jason Van Dyke, who has since been charged with murder.