Former Police Chief Garry McCarthy recently sat down with WGN-TV in Chicago to talk about the ongoing rise in violent crime that has seen the city’s murder rate spike to terrifying numbers.
McCarthy’s one overriding emotion with what is happening in Chicago is anger, and he lays blame at the feet of anti-police rhetoric and at the politicization of the justice system. McCarthy argues that if Chicago wants to fix its crime problem, it needs to stop travelling down the current path and go back to what was working just a few short years ago.
WGN-TV NEWS: So you were saying watching these [crime] numbers this year has been tough for you.
GARRY MCCARTHY: Yes, it has been incredibly difficult for me because we were making progress. In 2013 and 2014 we had the lowest numbers in this city since 1965. And you know, it wasn’t good enough. There was a lot of room for improvement. But in the past year, since I was fired, 737 people have been murdered.
It doesn’t have to be like that. New York and LA have plans, they have stayed on track, they have had their issues. Eric Garner is one of the highest profile incidents in New York, but they didn’t abandon what they were doing. And the politicizing of this issue, the anti-police sentiment in this country, at the behest of saving black lives — it is getting black people killed. And that needs to be recognized.
The politicizing of this issue is overwhelming. And it is failing, what we’re doing.
We’re taking the wrong medicine for what ails us. We have misdiagnosed the problem. The police are not the problem. There is a social and economic problem that has different classes in this country. And that is where the anger is coming from.
But, the police need to do better, but there is plenty of accountability for what is going on.
WGN-TV: Do you blame the way the policy has changed? What are they doing differently now?
MCCARTHY: The policy is part of it. And that is being dictated by the politics. A lot of the policies that you see now –for instance, the administrative investigation into the officers at the Laquan McDonald scene, before the prosecution of the murder first degree case, against Officer Van Dyke. That never happened before.
What we’re doing is putting that prosecution in jeopardy, because those officers’ testimony is now going to be impeached, and they are witnesses to a murder first degree charge. How are they going to testify if they are being accused of lying in the first place?
These policies are political, it is happening for that reason. You can’t legislate good policing. That is what we are trying to do. And the politics have to be removed from it. This is serious stuff. People are dying.
Police shootings in the city of Chicago are less than half of one percent of the shootings in this city. And look what happened with just one shooting. It has flipped the world upside down. We’re up more that 250 murders this year, they’re on track to hit about 750. Which, some perspective. The worst year that New York ever had –1990– there were 2,245 people murdered in New York City. That 750 translates to 2,250, because Chicago is one third the size of New York.
That was 26 years ago at the height of the crack epidemic.
WGN-TV: One of the things that you said is a year ago, you predicted that we would have numbers this sky high. If that’s the case, do you think these numbers are going to get worse here in the next six months?
MCCARTHY: I don’t see what’s stemming the tide, quite frankly. If we’re going down the wrong path, stop going. Turn around. Go back. That’s not happening.
What is happening is criminals are becoming more and more emboldened, and the police are becoming more and more hamstrung.
In the last weekend, I think there were three or four instances of cops being shot at here in the city of Chicago. It is quite obvious that the criminals have no fear of the system, and that they are being, that noncompliance is being legitimized by the political processes that are underway right now.
WGN-TV: So when they say they are going to bring in a thousand new police officers — does that do anything or no?
MCCARTHY: I would have taken 1,000 new police officers, but how many you have is less important than what they’re doing. If you’re in private industry, and your business is failing, do you do more of what you’re doing or do you change your strategy?
So if those officers are given the right direction, if a significant change in strategy comes about, it might help a lot. But if they put it into the wash, it is not going to help.
WGN-TV: You’re still very passionate about this a year after leaving your job. Are you mad at Mayor Rahm Emanuel?
MCCARTHY: I’m mad, in general.
My friends say that I handle anger a lot better than sadness, which is probably true. But I’m angry that people are dying in record numbers and it doesn’t have to be that way. Quite frankly, somebody said to me the other night, ‘Aren’t you glad you’re not in that job?’ And my response was, ‘I would do that job for free right now, because it’s that important.’
So I’m passionate about what I used to do for a living, I’m passionate about policing and I’m disgusted by the direction that we’re going in. I’m waiting for the outrage. Where’s the outrage?
We accept it now. Oh, we’re at 700 murders, so be it. Nonsense.
WGN-TV: Have you had any conversations with the mayor about this in the past few months, or the superintended. What is your communication like with them at this point?
MCCARTHY: I haven’t spoken to the mayor since last December 1st. I ran into him a couple of times at the East Bank Club.
WGN-TV: Do you want to?
MCCARTHY: Um, that’s a great question. I’m not sure how to answer it. You stumped me because I’m really angry about what happened, and I’m very angry about what is happening. But I do have a lot to say. I would give him an earful if we were to have a conversation.
[New superintendent] Eddie Johnson and I have spoken a couple of times, but you can’t blame Eddie. He’s a victim of what is happening today. As are the police and as are the people who are being murdered. I’m waiting for the outrage.
Where is the black caucus screaming? When they were calling for my resignation we had the lowest murder rate in the city since 1965. Where’s the outrage? Because their constituents, at the behest of saving black lives, the policies and the practices in this country are killing black people. It is insane. And that has to be realized. I’m waiting for the outrage. I’m outraged.