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Another outsider, but some community activists say they’re ready to work with him

by Alexandra M. Schwappach
May 03, 2011

Inclusion. Transparency. Morale.

Those are the points Chicago’s new police superintendent said he would be emphasizing when he starts running the department.

Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel, after a rapid search process, announced his new public safety team on Monday.

The new superintendent is Garry McCarthy, former Newark, N.J. police director. 

McCarthy’s focus on morale has some worried that the department’s standards will start to buckle.

Craig Futterman, a University of Chicago law professor who studies police brutality, said a desire to boost morale could result in dwindling department regulation.

“Morale is down, so the story goes, because Weis, a former FBI agent, came in and imposed harsh, unfair disciplinary measures,” he said. “Implicit in this narrative is the proposition that relaxing accountability standards would be good for morale.”

Former superintendent Jody Weis, who stepped down in March when his contract ended, was criticized during his term both for being an outsider and for wearing a uniform even though he had never served as a Chicago cop.

McCarthy also comes from outside the city, but vowed to go through the ranks of the department.
Emanuel’s decision surprised some people.

Avy Meyers, Rogers Park resident and community leader, said, “I really don’t know a lot about McCarthy, but I do know that many Chicago police officers will be disappointed an outsider was picked,” he said.

Others hope McCarthy will be able to regain the city’s trust in administering the city’s public safety.

A blog that focuses on police issues wrote, “It will certainly be interesting to see how well he can run up against the entrenched political forces here who appoint gold stars without regard [to] qualifications, educational experience or police ability. He's going to need all the skill and all the luck in the world here undoing the damage of the past administration.”

One insider on the force, Chief Al Wysinger, was briefly seen as the forerunner in the race for superintendent because  of his institutional knowledge.

One supporter of Wysinger, Jim Allen, minister for the Fellowship of Christians in Chicago, an organization that works on urban issues, said he thinks one of McCarthy’s main struggles will be with gang activity.

“Chicago is a different animal than New York,” he said. “There are many gangs in Chicago and there are many members in those gangs. McCarthy is going to have to prove himself to the rest of the police that he can handle that sort of thing.”

Allen said though he was somewhat shocked with the announcement Monday,  he would support Emanuel’s decision.

“I was pulling for Wysinger, yes,” he said. “But I have to trust the mayor-elect’s judgment.”

The selection period, which lasted a little over a month, was led primarily by Emanuel, who said he rushed the process because he wanted someone in place before summer, when crime typically rises.

“This process was definitely faster than the last time around,” said Max Caproni, executive director of the Chicago Police Board. “And I think that was because the mayor-elect wanted to have someone in place at the beginning of his term.”

The Chicago Police Board received more than 40 applications for the position and interviewed six applicatants before recommending three names to Emanuel, said a source from the board.

“I think we deserve a public safety team ready to go on Day 1,” Emanuel said Monday.

McCarthy’s salary will be less than Weis’ $310,000, but Emanuel would not state the exact amount.

McCarthy was the primary force behind the CompStat program in the New York Police Department, where he worked for 25 years. The program is a crime-tracking system and is used by police departments across the country, including Newark’s. McCarthy said he would determine later if CompStat would be a useful program for Chicago.

Since McCarthy started as police director at the Newark police in September 2006, the department had a 7 percent reduction in murder, a 10 percent reduction in shootings and 21 percent fewer complaints against officers, said a spokeswoman for the Newark Police Department.

McCarthy’s nomination will go to the City Council for confirmation after Emanuel is sworn in as mayor on May 16.