CHICAGO
03/03/2011 10:10 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Jody Weis Defends Morale At Police Department, Daley Denies Departure Was Over Contract Extension (VIDEO)

Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley again defended Jody Weis Wednesday, saying the police superintendent stepped down to search for a job--not because he didn't get a written contract extension.

"He made a decision for his family, there's nothing wrong with that," Daley said Wednesday, according to the Chicago Tribune. "He has been a great public servant."

City Hall sources told reporters Tuesday that Weis was unable to secure a written contract extension from Daley, and without the written extension, he declined to stay on board.

Hours before his $310,000-a-year contract expired Tuesday, Weis left his job rather than wait to be ousted by Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel, who made it clear he wouldn't renew Weis' contract.

"I'd like to thank the outstanding members the Chicago Police Department for their professionalism, and dedication to public service as well as the residents that make up the communities we serve," Weis said in a statement Tuesday. "It has given me great pride to have been part of such an outstanding organization and to have had the ability to serve the residents of the City of Chicago."

Daley tapped former Superintendent Terry Hillard, who headed the department from 1998 until 2003, to serve as top cop on an interim basis.

One of the reasons all six mayoral candidates gave for wanting to remove Weis from his post was low morale at the police department. Since he was hired in 2008, Weis has repeatedly clashed with the Fraternal Order of Police.

In an interview with NBC Chicago, Weis said he did not think morale was as bad as some made it out to be.

"To me it just doesn't add up that morale was bad throughout the department," Weis said. (Scroll down for video) "Because I firmly believe in every way I've evaluated morale of the unit, you do not achieve the results that you do when morale is bad."

Those results were noteworthy: complaints against officers fell nearly 42 percent on his watch, and the 2010 murder rate was its lowest in 45 years--even though the department was operating with 1,100 fewer officers.

"You do not achieve the results that we did in 2010 ... if the entire police department was totally demoralized," Weis said. "They just wouldn't perform."

Weis, a 23-year FBI veteran and former U.S. Army Captain, was the first outsider hired to run the department in more than 40 years. After a series of embarrassing police scandals made national headlines, Daley hoped he would clean up the department.

Within weeks of his arrival, Weis showed how seriously he took Daley's mandate to shake up the department, replacing 21 of the department's 25 district commanders, reassigning desk jockeys to the streets and telling overweight officers to lose their beer guts. But it was his handling of a police brutality case soon after he arrived in Chicago that many officers found most egregious.

Before Weis took the job, William Cozzi, an officer, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor battery charge after being videotaped beating a man handcuffed to a wheelchair. Set to return to work after serving a two-year sentence shortly after Weis arrived, he instead was charged by federal prosecutors with a civil rights violation after Weis directed the FBI to video of the incident.

Cozzi pleaded guilty and received a federal prison sentence, which the police union said smacked of double jeopardy. Weis defended his actions, saying they signaled to the department that brutality and misconduct would not be tolerated.

Weis also angered some officers because he wore a police uniform at department functions, and they didn't feel he deserved to because he didn't come up through the ranks.

"I just hope people will say the department is being held in a better light than it was three years ago. I've always said it's not about me," Weis told NBC. "There's no man who's over the mission of the Chicago police department. It's always the mission."

Meanwhile, there is much speculation about who Emanuel will choose to fill Weis' position. While many officers hope that the new mayor will choose someone from within the CPD ranks, some community leaders hope the next top cop will continue confronting police wrongdoing the way Weis did--which may require an outsider.

"The neighborhood needs to feel that the new superintendent is not going to be a protector of police when they are wrong," South Side activist and Rev. Michael Pfleger told the Tribune. "My worry is that you have to make sure that whoever is coming from the system is not going to protect the system."

WATCH NBC's interview with Weis here:

View more videos at: http://www.nbcchicago.com.