Updated: 5:24 p.m., Tuesday, January 17, 2017
As Chicago grapples with an ongoing crisis in the police department and attempts to negotiate a consent decree with the Department of Justice, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s senior staff for public safety is undergoing upheaval, creating confusion in and out of City Hall.
On the same day as the Department of Justice unveiled its findings of unconstitutional conduct at the Chicago Police Department, Mayor Emanuel’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Public Safety, Janey Rountree, served her last day at City Hall, according to multiple sources. Already, Mayor Emanuel’s other senior policy advisor on public safety, Katie Hill, left City Hall in December to work a similar position for newly elected Cook County State’s Attorney Kimm Foxx. Earlier this month, Anne Kirkpatrick, hired in June to lead CPD’s reform efforts as part of the new Bureau of Organizational Development, decamped for Oakland, California to head up its police department.
As of Monday evening, non-government legal experts who worked with City Hall on public safety issues were unaware of new public safety leadership in the Mayor’s office. That changed after The Daily Line called the mayor’s office for comment Tuesday morning.
“Right now [as of Tuesday morning], in respect to police policy stuff, there’s nobody in place. Janey Rountree and Katie Hill, who is with the State’s Attorney [Kim Foxx] now, they have yet to replace those people,” said Craig Futterman, who leads the Civil Rights and Police Accountability Project at the University of Chicago. Futterman has been a legal advisor to many groups seeking police reform. “The people ostensibly in charge of police reform, Anne Kirkpatrick, there’s nobody in place for that either. Short answer is, I don’t see the folks at City Hall level. The person put in charge of overseeing police reform is gone and isn’t being replaced.”
Appearing on Chicago Tonight Monday evening, Lori Lightfoot, President of the Police Board said, “That team needs to be augmented. The person who is primarily in charge of public safety in the mayor’s staff, their last day was Friday,” referring to Rountree’s departure. “I want to know who that new team is, not one person. I want to know what the strategic vision is, and the time frame is, and what the resources are to be brought to bear to change this problem.”
“It’s been public that Janey was planning to leave for several weeks,” said Emanuel spokesperson Julienn Kaviar. “Janey has been an incredible asset to the administration and the city for four years, and while she moved on to pursue another opportunity in life the Mayor is grateful that she agreed to stay on board until the DOJ report was released.”
Kaviar then explained that Jadine Chou, Chief Safety and Security Officer at Chicago Public Schools, would fill Rountree’s role in the short term while the mayor sought a permanent replacement.
Later, after publication of The Daily Line’s original story, about an hour later, Kaviar backtracked, to say Chou was never, nor will she ever be an interim senior policy advisor. In fact, there are already two senior public safety advisors in place, “We are fortunate to have a strong team in place, that includes Brandon Nemec and Deanne Millison, to advise on public safety policy until her replacement is named. Additionally, Deputy Mayor Andrea Zopp has considerable experience in this area and will also assist.”
A quick round of calls to legal advocates who work with the city regularly on public safety issues found that Nemic and Millison have not been taking a lead role yet. Most advocates have yet to meet either Nemec or Millison.
Ed Note: The original version of this story, published at 1:52 p.m., reported that Jadine Chou would be the interim policy advisor while the mayor’s office sought a permanent replacement.