Englewood Residents Protest White Police Commander's Appointment

02/06/2012 01:24 pm ET

Englewood residents staged a protest outside their district police station on Chicago's South Side Saturday, reportedly angry that the newly-appointed police commander for their neighborhood is white.

Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy appointed Leo Schmitz to the Englewood District as part of a city-wide reassignment concentrating police officers in Chicago's most crime-ridden areas. But protestors told WGN they think an African-American officer would better serve their district, which is predominantly black. Schmitz is replacing Anthony Carothers, the district's former commander, who is black.

Residents acknowledge that the 7th District, which contains Englewood, warrants added police attention--the neighborhood led the city in homicides last year, and accounts for one-third of the shooting-related incidents reported so far in 2012. But the area also has a history of conflict between locals and police.

Hal Baskin, a former aldermanic candidate and longtime neighborhood activist, called the move "disrespectful," according to the Chicago News Cooperative.

"Out of 13,500 sworn officers in Chicago, they couldn't find an African-American to be commander of the district?" Baskin told the CNC.

The Chicago Police Department has defended Schmitz's appointment, noting his prior experience heading up the Gang Enforcement Division in the Bureau of Organized Crime. A recent Chicago Crime Commission report found that Chicago has more gang members than any other U.S. city, and Englewood has a history of concentrated, gang-related violence.