CHICAGO (FinalCall.com) – Mixed feelings and lukewarm best describe the reaction to Chicago mayor-elect Rahm Israel Emanuel’s introduction of Garry McCarthy as his choice to head the police department of the nation’s second largest city. Mr. McCarthy, 51, is the police director of Newark, N.J. and rose through the ranks of the New York City police department.
Touting Mr. McCarthy’s big city experience, innovative and aggressive crime reducing techniques and willingness to work with the community at a May 2 press conference, Mr. Emanuel said the new top cop will bring new energy and ideas to the police department.
“His work proves that reducing crime and working closely with the community are not conflicting goals, both are essential to good policing,” Mr. Emanuel told reporters. The city council must still approve the move. Mr. Emanuel takes office May 16 succeeding Richard Daley who did not seek reelection after serving 22 years as the city’s longest serving mayor.
While the incoming mayor applauds Mr. McCarthy, many in Newark are happy he is gone.
DeLacy Davis, founder of Black Cops Against Police Brutality, says Mr. McCarthy’s relationship with Newark’s Black community was poor at best. A law enforcement professional with 20-years experience, Mr. Davis says he and members of Newark’s city council had access to Mr. McCarthy.
Although he had a healthy and professional relationship with Mr. McCarthy, others were left hanging, Mr. Davis says.
“I think in terms of the Black community, in terms of grassroots and people who don’t carry any title who might not be in any organization but simply want to be able to access I think the access was sparse at best,” the retired police sergeant told The Final Call.
Mr. McCarthy leaves Newark, a city with similar racial demographics as Chicago. The day after his introduction, he told a local radio host that transparency and communication are key elements in building more healthy relationships between communities and police. “It’s easy to not understand what’s going on if no one’s explaining what’s happening,” he told 1690AM WVON host Matt McGill.
But does Mr. McCarthy follow his own advice?
Community groups in Newark invited Mr. McCarthy to forums and events several times and he did not show up, says Mr. Davis. As head of the police department, you have to be willing to come out and talk with the community whether it is in hostile or friendly territory, he adds.
“His inability to meet with and have real discussion with the community has always been an issue here,” says Newark city council member Ras Baraka.
Mr. Baraka told The Final Call he was not on the council when Mr. McCarthy was appointed in 2006. He has been one of the most outspoken voices for Mr. McCarthy’s removal in part because as the top law man in Newark, he did not have a good relationship with Black and Latino police officers, says Mr. Baraka.
Mr. Baraka, son of well-known activists and poets Amiri and Amina Baraka, says Black and Latino officers from New York City came to the Newark city council and urged them not to bring Mr. McCarthy on because of allegations of discrimination. “While he was here (Newark), some of the same kinds of complaints arose,” he adds.
Last year, the Newark Superior Officer’s Association passed a “no confidence” vote questioning Mr. McCarthy’s leadership abilities. Representatives from Black, Latino and Portuguese police officers groups, which make up nearly 80 percent of Newark’s police department, echoed the sentiment. However, the city council voted to reappoint Mr. McCarthy.
“There were issues of unequal reprimand in the department. African American officers being fired and let go for managerial or department issues and some of the White officers who have committed crimes have still been allowed to stay on the force … for actual criminal offenses,” says Mr. Baraka.
Supporters of Mr. McCarthy say under his leadership crime in Newark dropped 12 percent and shooting incidents dropped 40 percent, but critics question the accuracy of those numbers.
Suspicions of “fudging” numbers of shootings, crime counts and other “problematic” areas during Mr. McCarthy’s tenure in New York also concerned Mr. Baraka.
Members of the Newark Anti-Violence Coalition (NAVC), a grassroots campaign founded in July 2009 as a direct response to Black-on-Black crime and violence plaguing the city say Mr. McCarthy did not reach out to community-based groups for solutions or partnerships. When the coalition formed, its number one demand was that Newark Mayor Corey Booker fire Mr. McCarthy.
Bashir Akinyele, NAVC press officer agrees the crime statistics are not accurate, and says Mayor Booker and Mr. McCarthy have done a “tremendous public relations job.”
“They have convinced everybody in America that crime has been reduced in the city of Newark. The shootings, the murders, car-jacking under his watch have dramatically reduced which is not true,” Mr. Akinyele says.
If a person is shot but then dies later at the hospital, it is not counted as a murder in Newark, explains Mr. Akinyele. “They’ve done a tremendous PR job of convincing folk that Garry McCarthy is one of the most innovative, creative and intelligent police officials in the country which is not true. You come to Newark and anybody will tell you.”
Accusations of police misconduct and harassment were still a problem under Mr. McCarthy’s watch, notes Mr. Akinyele. The “stop and frisk” philosophy and “broken window” policy Mr. McCarthy implemented in Newark subjected Black and Latino youth to unwarranted stopping by police, say critics.
These policies among other issues are a big concern to Patricia Hill, of the African American Police League in Chicago. Ms. Hill, a retired Chicago police officer with 20-years experience, is not happy with the choice of Mr. McCarthy as the new superintendent and says Chicago’s Black community cannot afford to take a “wait and see” approach.
His history in Newark and New York should be of great concern to Chicagoans, she says. “Even though he has learned to say the things that people want to hear, his actions are not consistent with that,” says Ms. Hill.
Ms. Hill says advocacy groups in Chicago will send a formal letter May 9 to Alderman Michelle Harris, chair of the police and fire committee, demanding community hearings to voice their concerns about the confirmation of Mr. McCarthy. She says the community must get involved or prepare to live with the consequences.
“If we’re ready to live with it then the summer is going to be completely unexpected in terms of what people think. Mass incarceration is going to increase and there will be little or no probable cause … the police will just run rampant in the community,” says Ms. Hill.
A phone call and e-mail sent to the press office of the Newark Police Department seeking comment from Mr. McCarthy were not returned by Final Call press time.
All residents of the community are entitled to service says, Mr. Davis. “When the call is made for a question to be answered around law enforcement and the quality of the service of law enforcement, there’s a need for the top cop to be present even if it’s going to be in an environment where you have to take some lumps,” he adds.
“I can’t say that I’m sad to see him go,” says Mr. Baraka. “I just hope that he’s learned from his experiences in Newark and that somehow he becomes more sensitive to the African American community, Latino community which I know is very big in Chicago.”
Mr. McCarthy must have a better relationship with the police officers and involve the community to be successful, adds Mr. Baraka.