On Thursday, the new Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability (CCPSA) unanimously recommended three candidates to replace former Chicago Police Department (CPD) superintendent David Brown, who resigned from the role on March 14. 

The seven-member commission announced their selections during a special public meeting on July 13 at Kennedy-King College in Englewood. The three finalists include Shon Barnes, police chief in Madison, Wisconsin; Angel Novalez, a 23-year CPD officer who currently serves as the department’s chief of Constitutional Policing and Reform; and Larry Snelling, a 28-year CPD officer and current chief of counterterrorism for the department.

“We have attempted to engage Chicagoans from all walks of life and put the community’s voice at the forefront. This was not public engagement for the sake of checking the box,”  CCPSA’s interim president Anthony Driver said, referring to the commission’s 120-day police superintendent search process. 

“This is public engagement for the sake of checking in with the community,” he continued. 

With the names of the three candidates heading to Mayor Brandon Johnson’s desk for approval and later a full City Council vote, the CCPSA is doing something unprecedented in Chicago. For the first time, the selection of a Chicago police superintendent is being managed by a civilian body that is entirely independent of the mayor’s office. 

Johnson will have 30 days to choose one or entirely reject the list of nominees. If the mayor does the latter, it will restart the nomination process. The Chicago City Council also weighs in on the choice. 

“We are standing on the shoulders of so many who have fought for this, so many who have been in this fight for decades, who have lost their lives trying to achieve what we’ve been able to participate in today,” CCPSA interim commissioner Remel Terry said on Thursday, hours before the commission’s vote.

Nearly two years ago, the Chicago City Council passed the Empowering Communities for Public Safety (ECPS) ordinance, which created two civilian oversight bodies for CPD: the three-member Police District Councils (PDC) in each of the city’s 22 police districts, and the citywide CCPSA whose members are nominated by the PDCs. 

The ECPS ordinance was born out of a decades-long push for civilian oversight of the CPD. The campaign gained momentum after the release of the video of former Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke fatally shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in 2014, but received even more visibility as calls for police accountability and reform picked up more steam during the 2020 summer uprisings

For Chicago, with its decades-long history of police misconduct and abuse, the CCPSA is a step in the right direction, according to many of the grassroots and community organizations that called for civilian oversight of the department. 

CCPSA’s current members are interim commissioners nominated by the City Council and appointed by mayor Lori Lightfoot in August 2022; PDC members were first elected in the February 28 municipal election.


The seven-member body can evaluate the performance of the police superintendent, any member of the police board, or the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) chief administrator. In addition, the commission can also recommend candidates for the Chicago Police Board, but the mayor still retains the power to hire and fire the police superintendent and Chicago Police Board members. However, the commission does have the power to hire and fire the COPA head. 

Following Thursday’s vote, Johnson released a written statement, “The City has reached an important milestone in our search for a new superintendent of the Chicago Police Department. After diligent review and assessment, including deep community engagement, local and national searches, the Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability (CCPSA) has identified three finalists from a field of highly qualified candidates,” he wrote. “I want to express my gratitude to all those that applied, and commend the CCPSA for its dedicated work throughout this selection process. I am confident that Chicago’s next superintendent will inspire trust, foster collaboration, and lead with integrity.” 

The Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) supported a slate of candidates in the police district council races during the 2023 municipal election. The police union spent at least $25,000 to get their candidates on the ballot and also sought to remove progressive candidates from the ballot. 

On Thursday,  FOP president John Catanzara thanked CCSPA commissioners for including the police union in the process. 

“This process is 100 times better than when the police board was conducting it,” Catanzara said during the public comment period. “It’s much more fair and inclusive.”

“I want to just say thank you on behalf of the 17,000 members I represent and for giving our members a voice in this process and explaining to you what is important to them in the boss that’s going to lead them forward,” he added.

Meet the three CPD superintendent candidates

The CCPSA kicked off a nationwide search for a police superintendent on April 7. Although finding a replacement for Brown was not something the commission expected to do so soon into their new roles, Terry said the CCPSA was up for the challenge. 

“So with the superintendent search, we were just excited and a bit humbled to have this experience, to lead something historically done behind closed doors,” Terry said. “We’ve been able to bring it out into the forefront and engage all stakeholders who have an interest in public safety for the city of Chicago.”

During Thursday’s meeting, Driver and Terry gave attendees a glimpse into the superintendent search process. In total, 54 people applied for the position, a first for the department. 

Over the last few months, the CCPSA has hosted seven public forums, interviewed 34 subject matter experts, and met with 68 organizations, including activist and advocacy groups, faith-based organizations, social service agencies, legal aid providers, affinity groups, and labor groups, including police unions. 

The community input process also included surveys that received 600 responses. The CCPSA narrowed down the candidate list to six, according to a June 29 Chicago Sun-Times news report. The three selected on Thursday were among the top contenders. 

 “The process we’ve described above was exhaustive and thorough, and we believe that it resulted in three candidates who could all powerfully and competently lead the department with a clear strategic vision that will reduce crime and violence, emphasize community-based and constitutional policing, provide better working conditions for police officers can better support their mental and physical health and achieve full compliance of the consent decree,” Terry said during Thursday’s meeting. 

Portrait of Shon Barnes, police chief of Madison, Wisconsin
Shon Barnes, police chief in Madison, Wisconsin.

Name: Shon Barnes

Current: Chief of Police in Madison, Wisconsin. 

Past:  Before joining the Madison, Wisconsin Police Department, Barnes was the Deputy Chief of Police in Salisbury, North Carolina, from 2017 and 2020. Though Barnes is not a CPD officer, he was the director of Training and Professional Development for the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) in Chicago. He began his career in 2000 as a patrol officer in North Carolina at the Greensboro North Carolina Police Department. He is a national Institute of Justice, LEADS scholar and University of Chicago Police Leadership Academy Committee member. Barnes has a Ph.D. in Leadership Studies. His dissertation examined racial disparities and profiling in police traffic stops. 

Education: Ph.D. Magna Cum Laude from North Carolina A&T University and a Masters in Science, in Criminal Justice, from the University of Cincinnati.

Angel Novalez speaking at the reception for the CCPSA’s superintendent candidates
Angel Novalez, Chicago Police Department’s Chief of Constitutional Policing and Reform.

Name: Angel Novalez

Current: Chicago Police Department’s Chief of Constitutional Policing and Reform. Under this role, Novalez is responsible for leading the CPD’s policy, training, and reform strategy and the efforts to bring the department further into compliance with the consent decree.

Past: Novalez has had several roles within the department, including Deputy Chief of Community Policing, Commander of the Office of Community Policing, a lieutenant in Area 4, a sergeant in the 5th District, and a police officer in various neighborhoods.

Education: He received a Bachelor’s Degree in public safety management from Calumet College of St. Joseph and is currently a candidate for an MBA from St. Xavier University.

photo of Larry Snelling
Larry Snelling, Chicago Police Department’s Chief of Counterterrorism.

Name: Larry Snelling

Current: Chicago Police Department’s Chief of Counterterrorism. He oversees 1,200 department members that are assigned to multiple divisions, including criminal networks, airport operations, and the public transportation section. 

Past: Snelling has also had several roles within the department, including Deputy Chief Area 2,  Commander of the 7th District, Lieutenant of the 7th District, Sergeant of Training, Sergeant of Patrol of the 22nd District, Instructor in the training academy. He also redesigned the Department’s current use-of-force training model around national best practices and constitutional policing. 

Education: Bachelor’s Degree in public safety management from Calumet College of St. Joseph, and is currently a candidate for an MBA from St. Xavier University.

A full listing of the nominee’s backgrounds can be found here.

What does the community think about the nominees?

At Thursday’s meeting, the reception for the CCPSA’s superintendent candidates was mixed. Some attendees believe systemic issues won’t go away no matter who’s at the helm. Others rose in support of Snelling. 

“It’s not just one bad apple, it’s a whole systemic issue and the Chicago Police Department needs to be cleaned up from top to bottom,”  Kobi Guillory said during the public comment period. He’s a member of the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (CAARPR), one of more than 100 organizations directly involved in the campaign and passage of the ECPS ordinance. 

Guillory added that he does trust the CCPSA to choose nominees for superintendent. He also encouraged city residents to remain involved in the process. 

Others expressed concern about Barnes, who is considered an outsider because he hasn’t risen through CPD ranks like Novalez or Snelling.

“We’ve seen that bringing in a police chief from the outside hasn’t worked. It’s never worked,”  Grand Boulevard resident Bamani Obadele said. Obadele was referring to Brown, who previously served as chief of police in Dallas before Lightfoot appointed him to CPD superintendent in 2020. 

Like Obadele, longtime Englewood resident Darryl Smith also sees Snelling as a good choice. Snelling has worked in the 7th District in Englewood.

Smith recalled a moment of unrest in Englewood after a Chicago police officer shot a 20-year-old Latrell Allen on the 5700 Block of Racine in August 2020. This shooting occurred amid the city’s summer of uprisings and demonstrations fueled in part by the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. 

“​​The community was in an uproar about a boy getting shot, and they were throwing bottles and bricks at the police,” Smith explained. 

Smith, who’s part of the Englewood Political Taskforce, said he was able to intervene on behalf of the community without police interference because Snelling allowed him to do so. The Englewood Political Taskforce was founded in 2003 to address social, economic and political issues. 

“He [Snelling] trusted me enough to allow me to do that, and we came to a peaceful resolve,” he said.  

Smith said he’s also watched Snelling, during his tenure at the 7th District, familiarize himself with the neighborhood and community residents. 

“I’ve watched him walk the blocks of the Englewood community as a commander. That’s unheard of,” Smith said.

is a multimedia reporter for The TRiiBE.