At just short of 4 years and seven months, ousted Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy served longer than either of his two predecessors, Jody Weis and Phil Cline.
What he couldn’t outlast, was a mixture of public outrage, and intense political heat.
A 25 year veteran of the New York City Police Department, McCarthy came to Chicago from Newark, N.J., where he served as Director of Police for five years. While there, he was hailed for a reduction in crime. And upon McCarthy’s arrival in Chicago, Rahm Emanuel promised that his hand-picked superintendent would bring “new ideas and new energy”.
That he did. McCarthy’s shakeups began immediately, with veteran commanders pushed aside, and district stations and entire detective area headquarters consolidated.
“We’re leaner and we’re meaner,” McCarthy said at the time. “That’s what it boils down to.”
Perhaps most controversial, McCarthy’s decision to discontinue CPD’s popular rapid strike units. The mobile forces had been a keystone of the previous administration’s saturation-bombing effort against spikes in violence.
“I do not believe that citywide task forces are the right way to fight crime,” he said.
McCarthy boasted that the crime numbers were coming down, and indeed, many of the indexes seemed to spell success. But last year, the Chicago Inspector General, Joe Ferguson, took issue with the math.
“We found that CPD failed to count each victim in multiple crime victim crimes as a separate offense,” Ferguson wrote. “This resulted in a 24% undercount in victim offenses.”
The Superintendent hit his high water mark with the massive demonstrations against a meeting of NATO nations in May of 2012. In a city where the “whole world was watching” Chicago Police bash the heads of demonstrators at the 1968 Democratic National Convention, 2012 showed a bigger audience officers who were pillars of restraint.
“The news isn’t what happened,” McCarthy said. “The news is what has not happened.”
There were other highs and lows. McCarthy suffered a heart attack in June of 2014. He remarried last New Year’s Eve.
As recently as last Friday, the superintendent indicated he was in for the long haul.
“I’ve never quit on anything in my life,” he said. “The mayor has made it very clear that he has my back.”
But someone had to take the fall for the handling of the Laquan McDonald case. And the other two principals, State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez and Emanuel himself, answer only to the voters.
On Monday, that someone, became Garry McCarthy.