Your NPR news source
Chicago police Supt. Larry Snelling with former interim police Supt. Fred Waller during a special City Council meeting at City Hall in the Loop, where Snelling was confirmed as the new police superintendent on Sept. 27, 2023.

Chicago police Supt. Larry Snelling, right, stands with interim police Supt. Fred Waller after the City Council confirmed Snelling as the new police superintendent on Sept. 27.

Pat Nabong

Chicago is keeping ex-interim top cop Fred Waller on as a CPD leader -- with combined annual pay and pension reaching $333,323

Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson’s administration is keeping a self-described “old school” former cop within arm’s reach of new Police Superintendent Larry Snelling, who is in charge of forging a slew of long-delayed reforms.

Fred Waller, who served four months as interim police superintendent over the summer, is now a “deputy director in the superintendent’s office,” said police department spokesman Tom Ahern, who declined to elaborate on Waller’s responsibilities in that post.

With crime a top issue in the city, each move tied to Snelling is under scrutiny to see what it might say about policing strategies as he establishes himself as the department’s leader.

Waller, 62, is set to receive $181,788 per year in his new CPD job, according to city records. As a civilian, additionally, he will continue receiving a police pension totaling $151,535 a year, according to a Policemen’s Annuity and Benefit Fund of Chicago record obtained by WBEZ.

Waller served 34 years as a sworn cop before retiring in August 2020. Reaching the rank of chief, his top salary was $185,364.

Waller then worked nearly three years in private security before Johnson brought him back as the department’s temporary leader on May 15, the start of the mayor’s term. Choosing Waller appeared to be an olive branch to rank-and-file cops worried about a 2020 radio interview in which Johnson spoke favorably about defunding the police, calling it a “real political goal.”

When Johnson introduced him as interim superintendent, Waller described himself as an “old school” cop.

“But I’m old school with integrity, professionalism and respect,” he added.

Before the vote that confirmed Snelling’s superintendent appointment in September, several City Council members lauded Waller’s return to CPD as the interim leader.

“When Superintendent Waller assumed that role, police officers felt for the first time in a long time that the head of the department was truly looking out for them, had their back, wanted to do everything he could to support them,” said Ald. Matt O’Shea, whose Far South Side 19th Ward is home to many cops. “I’m talking about mental wellness. I’m talking about days off being canceled. I’m talking about some of the horrible things our police officers see each and every shift across the city.”

But it’s unclear how keeping Waller will engender the transparency and community trust that Johnson and Snelling are vowing in the city’s behind-schedule implementation of a court-enforced police-reform agreement known as the consent decree.

In 2012 — as the commander of Wentworth, a South Side patrol district — Waller helped snare a promotion for officer Alvin Jones, a close associate of corrupt Sgt. Ronald Watts, who had been arrested that year with another member of their unit for stealing what they thought was drug money from an FBI informant. That sting, which led to prison terms for the officers, followed numerous local and federal investigations into the unit’s alleged corruption.

Waller nominated Jones for sergeant 10 months after the arrests. Jones remained on the force as a sergeant for the next decade. He resigned last year upon release of a city report that recommended his firing for alleged extortion with the Watts crew.

Johnson, asked in May about the interim superintendent’s ties to the Watts scandal, said only that he was “confident that Chief Fred Waller is the best person to serve as the interim superintendent to move our transition forward.”

Waller announced his retirement in 2020 after he was suspended for 28 days for using the word “rape” in a meeting at police headquarters to describe his feelings about officers being moved from patrol districts to other units, which depletes the patrol ranks.

After retiring, Waller followed the path of some other former top CPD officials by joining Monterrey Security, a Chicago-based firm in charge of safety and crowd control at large events across the country.

In September, just weeks before Snelling’s confirmation, Waller announced an overhaul of the department’s leadership. Waller’s selections included two commanders accused of fostering a hostile work environment and two others named in costly lawsuits.

When the City Council confirmed Snelling, the department posted a nearly five-minute “goodbye and thank you” video about Waller’s months as interim superintendent. Snelling narrated the video: “I am grateful for interim Superintendent Waller’s mentorship throughout my career and I will always carry his guidance with me as I step into the role as superintendent.”

Chip Mitchell reports on policing, public safety and public health. Follow him at @ChipMitchell1. Contact him at cmitchell@wbez.org.

The Latest
Anthony Driver, president of the Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability, said the referral to Inspector General Deborah Witzburg was based on ‘information from multiple knowledgeable sources that raised serious concerns’ about the Civilian Office of Police Accountability.
Also facing several criminal charges is Sameer Suhail, owner of a medical supply company, who’s accused of participating in the fraud along with ex-CFO Anosh Ahmed and Loretto’s then-chief transformation officer, Heather Bergdahl.
Newly released records provide the clearest picture of last month’s attack on the Cook County state’s attorney. They also show that her office was closely involved in the investigation and the decision to bring serious charges in the case.
Chicago slightly grew a youth jobs program this summer, including hiring 100 people to learn conflict resolution and relationship building.
Inspector General Deborah Witzburg said officers tied to extremist groups “are dishonoring the badge.”