Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy put to rest what he thinks is one of the biggest misconceptions about Chicago violence during a press conference with police chiefs and law enforcement officials in Washington, D.C., Wednesday.
The press conference centered on reducing the incarceration rate in jails across the country. After first touting his success in running the NYPD's crime control strategies in New York for several years, McCarthy launched into the issue of gun violence in Chicago, stating at the outset that Chicago does not have the strictest gun laws in the U.S.
"In Chicago, it is the most obvious example of what's wrong with the criminal justice system," McCarthy said. "By the way, Chicago does not have the strictest gun laws in the country. Let's get that on the table before we go any further. It's rhetoric that somebody created that gets repeated over and over again."
The police superintendent went on to spout statistics about incarceration in the Cook County Jail — 27 percent of the inmates are incarcerated for narcotics-related offenses, and only 4 percent are in jail for gun-related offenses.
Saying there is a crisis in the criminal justice system and in policing today, McCarthy's proposed solution is to give the community what it wants.
"The community doesn't want us to put everybody in jail," he said. "They want us to put the right people in jail."
The "right people," according to McCarthy, are the gun offenders, particularly those with long felony records. The wrong people, he implied, are the drug offenders. McCarthy then compared an armed robbery to a discovery of 10 bags of heroin and asked, "Do you really think those two crimes should carry the same weight in the criminal justice system?"
The press conference was held at a time when "Chicago violence" has painted national headlines, and both McCarthy and Mayor Rahm Emanuel have come under scrutiny for the uptick in violence, particularly shootings. Earlier this month, the City Council's Black Caucus held a public conference demanding that McCarthy be fired.
In another meeting in D.C. focusing on violence in the nation's largest cities, Emanuel pointed to "fetal" officers as a cause for the increase in violence, saying officers in the Chicago Police Department have "pulled back" in fear of becoming a news story themselves and adding to the negative press that has plagued police departments over the past several months.
McCarthy, meanwhile, has stood by his claim that better gun laws are the real answer.
"I've seen two-day sentences, and I've seen people who bond out for gun possession who have long felony histories and are dead in six hours," McCarthy said. "I can point to 160 shootings and murders in the city of Chicago this year that could have been prevented with stricter gun laws, stricter violent crime standards, and that's the goal. The goal is not to arrest everybody. It's to arrest the right people for the right reasons."