Mayor Brandon Johnson on Monday introduced CPD chief Larry Snelling as his pick for the next superintendent of Chicago police, Johnson’s first major decision on public safety that will set the tone for how his administration will tackle crime for the next four years.
Snelling, 54, was one of three finalists put to Johnson last month by the Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability, a new city body created in 2021. In a news conference at City Hall, the mayor backed Snelling as an experienced choice who can “unify” the police department.
“Chief Larry Snelling is a proven leader who knows and holds dear the soul of Chicago,” Johnson said at a late morning press conference. “… He commands the highest respect of his brothers and sisters in the department, and I’m fully confident in his ability to unify and strengthen these critical public servants.”
The other finalists were Angel Novalez, CPD’s chief of constitutional policing and reform, and Shon Barnes, the chief of police in Madison, Wisc.
During his announcement, Snelling, an Englewood native, introduced himself and said he fully support’s the mayor’s belief in tackling the “root causes” of violence.
“The police department and our community members are not two separate institutions because they can’t be. We have to work together by listening and learning from each other,” Snelling said. “… I want to be clear about my belief in the Mayor’s vision in the full force of government. We cannot do this alone as a police department.”
At the same time, Snelling sought to underline his priority in building officer morale, which frayed further during the pandemic and recent crime waves.
“For our officers who risked their lives every day to protect our residents, I know what you sacrifice on a daily basis,” Snelling said. “I know the sacrifices that your family makes when you go out to the street to keep the city safe.”
Snelling credit the other finalists as well as interim superintendent Fred Waller during his remarks.
Snelling joined CPD in 1992 and has spent much of his career as an instructor in the CPD training academy. Records from the city’s Department of Human Resources show was promoted to sergeant and lieutenant via the department’s much-maligned “merit” system. He also served as commander of the Englewood District, as well as deputy chief of Area 2 before he was promoted to chief of the bureau of counterterrorism in October 2022.
Given his experience as an instructor, Snelling is widely considered to be the CPD’s foremost expert on use-of-force scenarios. He’s been called to testify as an expert witness in more than two dozen court cases —criminal, civil and administrative — in recent years, including several cases that stemmed from the Laquan McDonald shooting video.