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Rahm Emanuel names Newark chief Garry McCarthy as new top cop

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

Picture a guy standing on a street corner drinking a beer.

Cops stop to talk to him. They find two guns on him. And when they take him to the police station, they learn he just got out of prison for shooting someone on the same corner.

That happened in Newark, N.J., shortly after Garry McCarthy became police director there in 2006.

And it’s the type of bust that McCarthy — who was named Chicago Police superintendent Monday — would like to see here.

“It’s about getting beat officers out of the car,” McCarthy said in an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times. “You sweat the small stuff to prevent the big stuff.”

Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel introduced his top cop at a news conference at the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications.

“He knows how to run a large police force,” Emanuel said of McCarthy, who was formerly the No. 2 official in the New York Police Department.

McCarthy will be paid less than the $310,000 a year his predecessor Jody Weis received. Emanuel would not disclose McCarthy’s salary.

McCarthy, a second-generation cop, said he’ll bring “excitement, endurance and energy” to his job. He intends to bring his “tried and true” policing strategies to Chicago and have his command staff figure out how to launch them here.

In Newark, overall crime fell 12 percent during McCarthy’s tenure and there was a 40 percent drop in shooting incidents and murders, officials said.

McCarthy, 51, said one of the keys to his success in Newark was limiting the types of calls his officers answered.

McCarthy has already asked for details about the roughly 5.7 million calls for police service received every year by Chicago’s 911 center. He wants to know what kinds of calls the understaffed Chicago Police Department could stop answering to free up officers to do more proactive police work rather than “running from call to call to call.” The Daley administration already has started the process by shifting some 911 calls to the 311 non-emergency center — thefts of property under $500 and lost property.

McCarthy also wants to change the culture of policing so that citizens’ interactions with cops finish on a positive note. That’s what he emphasized in Newark.

“We explained why we stopped them,” he said. “We didn’t just say ‘get the hell off the corner.’ Finish police interactions by leaving them smiling. . . . The police need moral authority.”

In Newark, police started cracking down on the most frequent types of quality-of-life complaints: everything from loud music to public urination. In the process, Newark started to see other, more serious types of crimes fall, McCarthy said. The officers who stopped to talk to the beer-drinking man on the corner probably stopped a shooting, he said.

McCarthy said he will continue to target drug dealers aggressively, but also will post beat officers round-the-clock on certain blocks to drive away drug customers. Then, working with neighbors, he will bring in city services to clean up the area and encourage residents to form block clubs.

McCarthy also said he will focus on keeping police commanders accountable for crime in their districts — something he was known for doing in New York City under the CompStat program.

“Quality of life and CompStat, I’ve learned, are the two cornerstones of crime reduction,” he said.

Officer safety is another key, McCarthy said. For example, he doesn’t like having officers manning cars without a partner from midnight to 8 a.m.

McCarthy said he will look to shift as many officers as possible from desk jobs to the street. Beat officers will be the priority, not the specialized units that fight crime citywide, he said.

“Patrol is the backbone,” McCarthy says, echoing Emanuel’s mantra on the campaign trail.

In his new post, McCarthy will be surrounded, Emanuel-style, with a “team” of public safety experts.

Gary Schenkel will become director of the Office of Emergency Management and Communications.

Schenkel, a former Marine training director, ran the Chicago Police academy under former Supt. Terry Hillard. Schenkel most recently was a top official in the U.S. Homeland Security Department.

Felicia Davis, a former Chicago cop and Emanuel campaign aide, will serve as his chief liaison on public safety issues.

And Fire Commissioner Robert Hoff, a third-generation firefighter whose father died in the line of duty, will be retained.

Emanuel is gambling that McCarthy’s big-city experience will overcome the fact that he’s an outsider. He replaces Weis, a career FBI agent who rank-and-file officers never accepted.

Fraternal Order of Police President Mike Shields said the two-year hiring slowdown that has left the department more than 2,300 officers short of budgeted strength is the union’s No. 1 priority.

“We are down to dangerous and alarming levels,” Shields said.

The union president also welcomed McCarthy’s pledge to run the department as a “meritocracy.”

“Chicago Police officers are tired of people being promoted or transferred because of who you know,” Shields said.

If the reaction of Finance Committee Chairman Edward M. Burke (14th) is a political bellwether, McCarthy should have no trouble winning City Council confirmation. Burke said he would have preferred a Chicago Police insider, but noted McCarthy had municipal law-enforcement experience — unlike Weis.

“He walked a beat,” Burke said. “He worked a beat car. He worked his way up in the New York City police department. He comes from a police family. His dad was a New York police detective. His brother was a New York State cop. The men and women of the Chicago Police Department can relate to that kind of background. He has walked the walk and talked the talk.”

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