First Deputy Superintendent John J. Escalante has been named as the interim head of the Chicago Police Department while the city searches for a replacement for Garry McCarthy, who was fired by Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Tuesday.
McCarthy was removed from his post in the wake of the shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, the release of the video showing the shooting and the arrest of Officer Jason Van Dyke, who was charged with murder.
Escalante, 51, has been with the department for 29 years. He was the department’s chief of detectives until October, when he was promoted to first deputy superintendent.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. His Promotion in October Angered the City’s Black Caucus Because He Replaced an African-American Deputy
His promotion in October was not without controversy and led to calls for Garry McCarthy’s resignation.
Escalante, who is Hispanic, was chosen to succeed the retiring Alfonza Wysinger, who is black, angering the city council’s black caucus. But the caucus leaders said they were more upset about McCarthy’s lack of responsiveness to black aldermen, than the promotion of Escalante.
“As aldermen of these communities, we are on the front lines of the work to keep our streets safe and secure. We have been troubled by the superintendent’s lack of responsiveness to our concerns and requests as we face this crisis,” Alderman Roderick Sawyer told the Chicago Tribune. “In addition, we have been deeply concerned about the superintendent’s failure to place African-Americans in a position of leadership throughout the department, as well as the reduction in new African-American police recruits despite our repeated efforts and inquiries.”
Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement after Escalante’s promotion, “On behalf of the people of Chicago, I want to thank Al for nearly three decades of dedication to the safety of our city and specifically for his tireless leadership over the past four and a half years. While Al leaves big shoes to fill, John Escalante has proven himself time and time again, and he will be an incredible asset to the department in the fight against gun violence.”
2. He Has Been Head of the Department’s Detectives & Led the Bomb & Arson Unit
Escalante has held numerous positions during his 29 years as a police officer, according to his LinkedIn page.
He has been a commander in the patrol and detective bureaus, including commander of the 14th district and chief of detectives, a position he held until October, when he was elevated to first deputy superintendent, the second highest post in the department.
Escalante said on his LinkedIn page he was “responsible for all aspects of patrol operations, deployment and criminal investigations for the nation’s second largest policing agency,” in his role as first deputy.
He has also been the chief of patrol for Area North and commander of the Bomb and Arson Unit. He is the chairman of the department’s Traffic Review Board.
3. He Has a Degree in Criminal Justice From Lewis University
Escalante has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Lewis University Rommeoville in Illinois.
He is the vice president of the St. Jude Police League and chairman of the Financial Assistance Committee for the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation.
4. The City’s New Top Cop Will Be Chosen by the Police Board
Escalante will serve as the head of the embattled police department while the Chicago Police Board chooses a successor for McCarthy.
It’s not yet known how long that process will take, or if Escalante will be considered. McCarthy was hired in 2011 and earned $260,000 a year.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Escalante was on a list of contenders for the superintendent job in 2011. He was a deputy chief at the time.
5. Emanuel Has Also Set Up a Task Force to Address Issues in the Department
At a press conference Tuesday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel also announced he is establishing a five-person police accountability task force to review issues in the department.
After the release of the Laquan McDonald video and arrest of Officer Jason Van Dyke, calls for the resignations of both McCarthy and Emanuel were made in editorials and by political leaders. The department has been accused of covering up the McDonald case.
“The shooting of Laquan McDonald requires more than just words,” Emanuel said in a statement. “It requires that we act; that we take more concrete steps to prevent such abuses in the future, secure the safety and the rights of all Chicagoans, and build stronger bonds of trust between our police and the communities they’re sworn to serve.”
The task force includes former federal prosecutor Sergio Acosta, inspector general of Chicago Joe Ferguson, former Illinois State Police director Hiram Grau, Chicago Police Board president and former federal prosecutor Lori Lightfoot and Randolph Stone, a University of Chicago Law School professor and former Cook County public defender.
Former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick will be a senior advisor to the task force, Emanuel said.