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Some look for a little street cred in the next police chief

by Alexandra M. Schwappach
April 27, 2011

 The search for Chicago’s next superintendent of police is down to three finalists. Only one of them is from Chicago, and some observers hope the final choice has strong on-the-street experience and people skills.

The Chicago Police Board announced Monday that Garry McCarthy of New Jersey, Gil Kerlikowske of Washington D.C. and Al Wysinger of Chicago are the finalists in the search that began last month.  

Garry McCarthy—Newark, N.J. Police Director since late 2006.
As the former New York City deputy police commissioner, McCarthy, 51, was the primary force behind the New York Police Department’s CompStat program—a tool that holds police officers more accountable, works to improve local quality-of-life issues and reduce crime.  After McCarthy’s first full year as director of the Newark Police, the department had a 9 percent reduction in murder.  The department also received 21 percent fewer complaints against officers compared with 2006. 

Gil Kerlikowske —Director of the
White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.
Kerlikowske, 61, served nine years as police chief in Seattle before accepting his current position at the White House in 2009. As the nation’s top drug official, Kerlikowske opposed the legalization of marijuana, saying last November that it would not solve drug-related violence in Mexico.

Al Wysinger — Chicago Police Deputy Chief, Organized Crime Division.
Former commander of the 15th District in the Austin neighborhood and a gang-crimes specialist, Wysinger, 48, has the most street cred of the three candidates. In 2008 he was named “Outstanding Public Servant of the Year” by the local chapter of the NAACP. 

Several observers who have been following the search have their own ideas about the qualities the city’s new police superintendent should possess.

“The next superintendent’s primary concern should be the safety and welfare of the Chicago police,” said Pat Camden, spokesman for the Fraternal Order of Police.  “There are Chicago police officers who put their life on the line every day, and the superintendent should look out for those officers.”

Al Wysinger, the only finalist from inside the Chicago Police Department, would probably be the best choice, Camden said.

“He knows the everyday operations of the police department,” he said. “He’s familiar with the institutional details.” 

Bruce Rottner is Deputy Chief of Area 3 on the North Side. He said Jody Weis’ lack of police force experience kept him from doing an outstanding job during his recently concluded three-year term.

 “My hope is that [the mayor]  picks someone who wants to work in a beat car,” Rottner said, “someone who understands what we do.  That part was a tremendous hurdle for Weis.” 

Mayor Daley chose Weis because he offered a fresh perspective, but that might have negatively affected Weis’ term, Rottner said.

Wysinger is a strong candidate because of the respect he has earned in the city, said Jim Allen, minister for the Fellowship of Christians in Chicago, an organization that works on urban issues..
“He’s versatile, approachable, and he’s the kind of guy that makes people open up to him,” Allen said. “He doesn’t have to use power and vibrato to get his point across.”  

Police department morale would rise with Wysinger at the helm because people open up to him, Allen said.

“Bad officers beware,” he said.  “Al Wysinger is the real deal.”