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Chicago Police Board to ask prospective top cops: How will you improve morale?

Updated: July 14, 2011 12:15AM

The Chicago Police Board launched a search for a new police superintendent Wednesday, asking applicants to say how they would boost morale among rank-and-file officers.

Cops have complained of poor morale since 2008 when Jody Weis was hired as police superintendent with a mandate to crack down on misconduct. His contract ended this month and former Supt. Terry Hillard took over as the interim top cop.

Candidates to replace Weis have until April 11 to apply and must answer four essay questions. Three questions are similar to those posed to applicants in 2007, asking about their accomplishments, how they would boost diversity and how they would build on the city’s success in reducing homicides.

The fourth question — how to improve morale — is new. Police Board President Demetrius Carney said it was added because “that’s been an issue since Weis took office.”

The board will present three finalists to mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel for consideration. In an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, Emanuel has said he’s impressed by the qualifications of former Chicago Police Deputy Supt. Charles Ramsey, who served as the chief of the Washington Police Department and currently heads the Philadelphia Police Department.

Ramsey has told the Sun-Times he has been contacted by Emanuel and is “intrigued” at returning to the department where he got his start as a cadet.

Mayor Daley hired Weis at $310,000 a year to shake up the department after a series of scandals. Daley picked Weis after ignoring the Police Board and its two national searches for superintendent.

The Police Board’s tight timeframe for a candidate search is aimed at accommodating Emanuel’s desire to have a superintendent in place in time for his May 16 inauguration, but is likely to limit the number of applicants seeking the job.

Although Emanuel has vowed to abide by the selection process established by law, he also is conducting his own personal interviews with candidates and plans to communicate his favorites to the Police Board.

“When it comes to keeping our streets safe, we don’t have any time to waste,” said Ben LaBolt, a spokesman for Emanuel.

In the past, the Police Board’s nationwide search has lasted months — with ads in national trade publications, written questionnaires and face-to-face interviews with 10 semi-finalists.

Carney said the board has reached out to organizations representing black, Asian, Hispanic and female cops in hopes of attracting a “very diverse” pool of applicants.

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