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McCarthy clashes with alderman over promoting blacks to police brass

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Updated: December 2, 2013 12:45PM

Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said Thursday he’s using his “discretionary” promotions to ease a shortage of African Americans among police brass, but it’s not happening fast enough to satisfy at least one black alderman.

In a heated exchange, West Side Ald. Jason Ervin (28th) complained about a decline in the number of blacks in the police department’s exempt ranks during McCarthy’s tenure.

Ervin was equally unhappy about the paltry number of black sergeants, detectives and captains and about McCarthy’s decision to bypass black candidates for the job of Harrison District commander.

“You have, in fact, gone backwards at the rank of chief and deputy superintendent. ... You mean to tell me there are no qualified African Americans to be chiefs or deputy superintendents in this department?” Ervin said.

“I find it hard to believe that in a district that is probably 99 percent minority, that we couldn’t find a qualified minority to lead the district. That’s a challenge that I face in church, in the shopping center and walking the streets. If you don’t feel that’s important, I do not feel that you’re the right person to lead this department.”

McCarthy accused Ervin of putting words in his mouth.

He argued that he should be judged not by the makeup of a department that is now 24 percent African-American overall and 29 percent black in its exempt ranks, but on the discretionary promotions in his control. They’re 36 percent black to the rank of detective and 50 percent to the ranks of sergeant and lieutenant.

“You’re saying that I’m saying that there’s nobody qualified. That’s nonsense. Not even close to being true,” McCarthy said.

“I just told you the numbers of who I’m promoting, and they’re disproportionately African-American based on the demographics of this department. So, I’m not gonna sit here and take that, alderman. You’re wrong.”

Ervin countered, “You can leave if you don’t like what’s being said.”

West Side Ald. Michael Chandler (24th) echoed Ervin’s complaints about the Harrison District, accusing McCarthy of blindsiding elected officials and “driving a wedge” between citizens and police.

Thursday’s heated exchange forced Budget Committee Chairman Carrie Austin (34th) to play referee.

“I don’t tolerate that,” she told McCarthy at one point.

“You may be the superintendent, but don’t let me shut your mike off. Everyone will have an opportunity to say what they have to say whether you agree or disagree. Cutting each other off is gonna make me cut both of you off.”


Twitter: @fspielman

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