By Justin Madden
CHICAGO (Reuters) - Three law enforcement veterans from Washington state, Georgia and Chicago were named on Thursday as finalists to head the Chicago police department, which is fighting a spike in murders and under federal investigation over the use of lethal force.
The nine-member Chicago Police Board that includes a former judge, a pastor, business leaders, lawyers and former police nominated the three after reviewing 39 applications.
The short list now goes to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who must pick a new top cop after he fired Superintendent Garry McCarthy in December following protests over police shootings of mostly black men.
The three finalists are Cedric Alexander, public safety director of DeKalb County, Georgia; Anne Kirkpatrick, retired police chief of Spokane, Washington; and Eugene Williams, Chicago police deputy superintendent.
The police board held public hearings on a new superintendent at which many Chicagoans said they wanted an African-American to be selected. At the packed meetings, they expressed concerns about racism on the force and slow and ineffective discipline after police misconduct.
Kirkpatrick is white and Alexander and Williams are black.
"We have heard you. And I hope you agree that we have selected people who have a proven track record of meaningful relationships with the community," Police Board President Lori Lightfoot said at a news conference.
She said the board focused on finding a chief who can rebuild trust, deal with violent crime and communicate effectively with rank-and-file officers. Chicago had 102 murders in the first nine weeks of 2016, double the number from the same period last year.
The mayor can ask the board to reopen the process if he does not like any of the recommendations.
Interim Superintendent John Escalante applied for the job but was not a finalist.
Chicago's police have shot, on average, 50 people a year over the past eight years, injuring or killing them. About 75 percent of those shot are black.
The issue boiled over last year when the city was ordered by a judge to release a video of a white officer killing a black teenager. The video belied the police account that 17-year-old Laquan McDonald had lunged at them. The officer who shot the teenager 16 times now faces murder charges.
Outrage over that shooting and others led to a U.S. Justice Department investigation of Chicago policing.
Chicago is one of many U.S. cities roiled by protests in recent years over police killings of minorities, a number of them caught on video.
(Additional reporting by Suzannah Gonzales; Writing by Fiona Ortiz; Editing by Nick Macfie and Jeffrey Benkoe)