Public Safety

  • Police Lieutenant Reuben Slayton*

    7 June 2010

    “We have captains who can't spell 'lieutenant'.”

    Department: Police

    Employed for: 35+ years

    Cred: Awarded four figures from the federal monitor

    Background: Master's degree in law enforcement; experience in hostage situations and numerous shootings; good physical shape (he runs every day).

    Gripe: Within the last four years Slayton has unsuccessfully applied three times for a promotion to a captain position, of which the department currently has over 70. He claims that, each time, the department has promoted less qualified candidates over him.

    Why the city's not compliant: Slayton says the promotion process has a built-in patronage component, in that the police department can, in each promotion cycle, promote one-third of the applicants "meritoriously"—based on the judgment of superiors rather than test scores, time in service, and education. "That's what pisses me off," says Slayton. "Which brain surgeon do you wanna see? The one who tested well, or the one chosen on merit?"

    The system has resulted, Slayton maintains, in a disappointing lack of leadership and incompetence. "We have captains," he says, "who can't spell 'lieutenant'."

    Why cloutless: Slayton has worked most of his career in the Patrol division, in which most district officers serve. It looked like good place to be, career-wise, under former superintendent Terry Hillard.

    "Hillard said he would make captains from Patrol lieutenants—but he didn't," says Slayton. "Look at where lieutenants were made from: very few from Patrol units." Since Hillard resigned in 2003, Slayton says, mid-rank promotions have come from specialized units, which one needs clout to get into. (See Lt. Madison Beadell.)

    Slayton says the police department has a large number of very qualified officers—"but they don't get promoted cuz they don't have the phone call" from a clouted patron. For example, he says, "it took me 25 years to make sergeant."

    *Not his real name.

    See "Substantially clouted", the main article for this story.

  • Police Lieutenant Madison Beadell*

    7 June 2010

    “I thought if you did a good job and stayed out of trouble, you’d get somewhere. Boy, was I naive.”

    Department: Police

    Employed for: 30+ years, now in a police district

    Cred: Awarded five figures from the federal monitor.

    Background: Rated highest in academy class.

    Gripe: Promotions tend to come from the department’s special units, and one must have clout—"You gotta be heavy"—to get into those, e.g.: Forensic Services, [Horse-] Mounted Patrol, Organized Crime, Legal Affairs ("Tons of cops are lawyers, but to get in you gotta have clout"), Narcotics and Gangs, Bomb and Arson ("You gotta be super heavy"), and Airport Law Enforcement.

    "Right after I got out of the academy, when I was working traffic in the Loop during Christmas, this one lieutenant asked me if I wanted to go to [a special unit]. I said, ‘Oh, no, I wanna go back into a district and learn patrol.’ He looked at me like I’d just landed from Mars."

    Why the city’s not compliant: Beadell says that those with clout have always climbed to the rank of lieutenant or above quickly—and they still do. An example: Beadell's first test for lieutenant applicants in 1987. "It was the most disgusting thing," Beadell says, claiming that the department used blatant favoritism in scoring applicants. "I can’t tell you how angry it makes me to think about it."

    What the Feds say: Federal monitor Noelle Brennan has documented ongoing problems with the tests on which the police base promotions. In her December 18, 2007 report to the court, Brennan notes that she tried to stop a lieutenants’ test earlier that year because "individuals with political connections might have access to the correct answers." The city administered the test anyway. And, in her December 4, 2009 report, Brennan wrote, "We are still negotiating the Hiring Plans for the Chicago Police Department and Fire Department, which were expected to have been completed almost two years ago."

    Clout tidbit: The police department’s head of human resources, Tracey Ladner, was moved to police from the city’s law department in 2008 after the Office of Compliance accused her of helping to rig a promotion for the daughter of Brian Crowe, the city’s former corporation counsel. Ladner also got a $10,000 boost in pay.

    Feb. 10, 2017 update

    The Chicago Police Dept. released a list of officers promoted since 2006 by way of merit selection—identifying the sponsor of each promotee.

    *Not his real name.

    See "Substantially clouted", the main article for this story.

  • The Passenger with a Gun

    3 December 2009

    Interview with the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky on the remarkable accessibility for the press of the Independent Police Review Authority, and more.

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