CDO Interview: Interim Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy

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Garry McCarthy was with the New York Police Department for 25 years and spent the last five years as top cop in Newark, N.J. He’s now at the helm of the Chicago Police Department. ChicagoDefender.com talked one-on-one with the interim superintendent

Garry McCarthy was with the New York Police Department for 25 years and spent the last five years as top cop in Newark, N.J. He’s now at the helm of the Chicago Police Department. ChicagoDefender.com talked one-on-one with the interim superintendent (his appointment has to be confirmed by City Council) about what attracted him to Chicago, his view on community policing and what area he first visited when he was tapped for the post.

ChicagoDefender.com: Why was the Chicago job offer appealing?

Interim Supt. Garry McCarthy: I am a person who believes being a police officer is the most honorable profession a person can choose. On a daily basis we have an opportunity to make a difference in the world. You have the opportunity to affect a person’s life in a positive fashion, hopefully not in a negative fashion. An opportunity to run a major agency like Chicago, it’s an enormous opportunity for me professionally and personally. My goal for the Chicago Police Department is to change the way that we police in this country. I know how to reduce crime. I’ve done it for a long time. I did it in New York City for seven years as New York’s principal crime strategist. But I’ve also come to realize it’s not just the police’s job to reduce crime, it’s everybody’s job to reduce crime. I really see the future of policing in community partnerships to not just assist us in reducing crime, but to change the course of history.

CDO: What mentality are you bring from Newark to Chicago?

McCarthy: Let’s go past Newark and go back to New York City. I spent 25 years in the New York Police Department. I understand the culture of professionalism in the NYPD and I’m finding a similar culture here in Chicago, which I’m very, very happy to see. If I would boil it down to one word –– respect. When I speak to our commanders and our officers, I talk about respect and treating people the way you’d want your family to be treated. If we don’t respect each other how are we going to treat the public.

CDO: There was some criticism of you drawn from “Brick City.” Do you think the documentary gave you an unfair advantage with people having preconceived notions?

McCarthy: People ask me about “Brick City” all the time and I’m usually embarrassed by it because that was a very intrusive look into my life. I tend to think of myself as no greater or no lesser than any other person. It’s kind of embarrassing to get that much attention. As far as what came out of that, I think that in many respects it was a positive experience for me because it showed some of the things I was up against and still willing to fight and trying to do the right thing. I’m a person that is very forward. What you see is what you get.

CDO: What key areas in Chicago do you think need the most attention?

McCarthy: The first place I went when I got here was Englewood. It has the historic high crime rate in the city. I sat down and spoke with the officers and commander of the district. When we were looking at where we need the resources more than others, there’s a myriad of locations. We don’t want to push down on a balloon so it pushes down here but pops up there. We don’t want that to happen. We have to look at long-term solutions to crime. Englewood is right at the top of the list though.

CDO: Would that revive talks of beat realignment?

McCarthy: I kind of think of beats as just lines on a map. If I deploy the resources properly, I don’t think we’ll need a beat realignment. And besides, just realigning beats in a 911 system will cost millions of dollars. In this time of fiscal restraint, I’m going to move that to the bottom of the list and work my way around it.

CDO: What is the plan to foster community trust?

McCarthy: The key to community trust is two-fold. It’s communication and it’s transparency. We can’t be hiding behind cloaks saying we’re not telling you what we’re doing. We want people to know what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. That’s communication and transparency. I think that’s where it starts. The bottom line is I’m going to take the whole issue of community relations to another level. It’s not just about cops being nice to people because sometimes we’re not. It’s more about changing the whole landscape that people talk about the police and the community as two separate entities. I don’t even see it that way. Officers are part of the community; the point is to make those segments one rather than two separate entities. There’s this program called the Violence Reduction Strategy we have here in Chicago that is modeled on the Boston CeaseFire model, which is different from the CeaseFire model we have hear. That is a subcomponent of what I want to see here –– using the moral authority of the community to change criminals behavior, in partnership with the police. I have a whole community engagement strategy that I put together in Newark that was created with the community.

CDO: Will there be changes with the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS) department?

McCarthy: I tend to think we don’t want community engagement programs, (instead) we want a community engagement philosophy. From what I’ve seen about CAPS and I’m not sure how to change this, CAPS has become a program rather than an institutional method of doing business in the Chicago Police Department. We shouldn’t have to tell people that we will engage the public in such a fashion; it’s got to be part of what we do. I need to take a real close look at CAPS. I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water. Nothing I’m going to do in Chicago is going to be throwing something out and replacing it with something different. It will be building on the successful things we have. I know a lot of people love CAPS and a lot of people are invested in CAPS. I want to see how to make it work better and reinvigorate it.

CDO: Would Ron Holt still be part of the CAPS philosophy?

McCarthy: I haven’t gotten to the point of deciding anything along those lines. I haven’t gotten down to what I want to do with CAPS or Ron Holt. I was at a community meeting with Ron a couple of weeks ago. I thought he was very good.

Copyright 2011 Chicago Defender

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