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Chicago’s top cop search down to three finalists, sources say

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

The competition to become Chicago’s next police superintendent has come down to a three-man race between a veteran Chicago cop and a pair of outsiders, with a final decision possible later this week, City Hall sources said Monday.

The top three are: Newark Police Chief Garry McCarthy; national drug czar R. Gil Kerlikowske and Chicago’s deputy chief-of-detectives Al Wysinger. Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel was asked Monday whether an outsider can improve the morale problems that dogged career FBI agent Jody Weis.

“My No. 1 goal … is what do we have to do to reduce violent crime in the city,” he said.

“I’m looking for a person who understands that the beat officer is the backbone of the law enforcement community. …. The measure is, how do we get results and who is the right leadership to get results.”

If Emanuel chooses to go with an outsider, McCarthy appears to have the edge.

That’s because of his background as a street cop and the role he once played as the driving force behind the CompStat program credited with dramatically reducing New York City’s homicide rate.

Under the program, police commanders are called before a review board on a monthly basis and held accountable for crime spikes.

McCarthy was a surprise finalist in the 2003 search that culminated in Mayor Daley’s appointment of Phil Cline.

At the time, the Police Board was willing to take the heat for choosing three whites as finalists because it was “absolutely dazzled” by McCarthy.

“We knew the ticket lacked diversity, but we also felt strongly that if Garry McCarthy could bring his experience to Chicago, it would help address our homicide rate, our drug and gang problems,” Police Board President Demetrius Carney said at the time.

“He interviewed so well. His knowledge of the city was just unbelievable. He knew the top brass here. He knew and understood our CAPS program. If we could combine his CompStat with CAPS, what a strong city we’d have.”

Kerlikowske is a former Seattle police chief. But, his current job as national drug czar would likely make him more of a federal bureaucrat in the eyes of rank-and-file Chicago Police officers. That could be a liability after Weis.

The only hitch for McCarthy could be a 2005 disorderly conduct conviction stemming from McCarthy’s attempt to get his daughter out of a parking ticket.

At the time, McCarthy and his wife had been driving down New Jersey’s Palisades Parkway while their teenaged daughters followed in another vehicle.

The McCarthy daughters separated from their parents, stopped at a rest stop and parked in a handicapped space without the required placard.

When a pair of plainclothes Parkway police officers issued a ticket, McCarthy’s daughter allegedly explained that she had an ankle injury caused by a prior accident and had been issued a placard, but didn’t have it with her.

Garry McCarthy was then accused of driving up in a police SUV, blocking the unmarked New Jersey police car and engaging in a shouting match with the plainclothes officer. He was placed in handcuffs and led away as a crowd watched.

Wysinger earned his chops on the day in 2007 when he ran down a gunman who shot a woman in a West Side gangway near his grandmother’s 80th birthday party. His appointment would almost certainly play well with the rank-and-file.

But, his level of experience pales by comparison to McCarthy, who would be surrounded Emanuel-style by a diverse team of insiders to soften the blow, City Hall sources said.

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