Chicago Police First Deputy Supt. Anthony Riccio was originally going to announce his retirement earlier this year, but after the civil unrest spawned by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the ongoing impact of the coronavirus pandemic, he had decided to stick around longer.
Now, as he prepares to step away from the force, he is reflecting back on 34 years with the Chicago Police Department.
“We are guardians, and we have to be viewed as guardians,” he said. “We need to view our role as that, and people in the community need to view our role as that. We are there to protect people.”
Riccio says that working as a police officer is in his blood, crediting his father’s service with inspiring him to join the force.
“He always went out to do the right thing,” he said. “He worked hard most of his life, and he worked two or three jobs to support us because policing didn’t exactly pay the bills back then.”
Riccio says that he had originally looked to retire earlier this year, but the issues facing the department, including COVID-19 and the furor after the death of Floyd, inspired him to delay that decision.
“It was a really stressful time for the department,” he said. “We were worried about the officers, worried about the public, and we changed the way we policed.”
During the aftermath of the Floyd shooting, Riccio has heard the calls to “defund the police,” but believes that pursuing that goal would be a mistake.
“We all need to hit a reset button, quite frankly,” he said. “The tension between the police department and the public is really high. It’s way too high. We all want the same things. We all want safe streets (and) safe communities throughout the city where kids can be out playing without the fear of gunshots.”
To do that, Riccio hopes that the department can live up to the mantra of all police officers: a desire to serve and protect the public.
“If we can get that relationship set with the community, we are going to be good. We are going to be in good shape,” he said.