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City Council’s Black Caucus chairman: Clock ‘ticking’ for Garry McCarthy

Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy | Sun-Times files

Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy | Sun-Times files

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Updated: March 24, 2013 6:09AM

The chairman of the City Council’s Black Caucus said Friday his members are not saying Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy must go, but it won’t be long before they do if the bloodbath continues on Chicago streets.

“If things don’t change and we get closer to the election, I won’t be able to stop my members from calling for his head because the public is calling for our heads. The clock is ticking on all of us,” said Ald. Howard Brookins (21st).

“We’re getting push-back from our constituents. They’re wondering what the hell their elected representatives are doing to combat all this violence. We’re not gonna wear the jacket for the actions or inactions of” the superintendent.

Brookins noted that the murder of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton ended Chicago’s most deadly January in a decade, following a 16 percent spike in homicides in 2012.

“If there were 42 murders in January when it’s cold outside, what happens in June or July when the weather is warmer and there are more people on the street?” the alderman said.

McCarthy could not be reached for comment on Brookins’ remarks. After a police graduation ceremony at Navy Pier earlier Friday, he told reporters that he shares aldermanic “frustrations” about the gang violence that’s driving Chicago’s murder rate.

Days after Hadiya’s murder shined another unflattering international spotlight on Chicago, Brookins told the Chicago Sun- Times that Emanuel would be “forced to do something about McCarthy or this could potentially become his ‘snow issue.’”

The political pressure has intensified in recent days.

As first reported by Sun-Times columnist Michael Sneed, the Black Caucus held a gripe session about crime and McCarthy after last week’s City Council meeting.

That was followed by a President’s Day strategy session and a closed-door meeting Thursday that Brookins and

four other African-American aldermen had with Emanuel’s intergovernmental affairs chief Matt Hynes.

The aldermen complained about what some perceive as McCarthy’s “arrogance,” demanded to know what other strategies the superintendent has up his sleeve and tossed out a few ideas of their own.

They range from hiring part-time police officers without benefits to tamp down spikes in violent crime to increasing the number of roadside safety checks and using one-way streets, cul-de-sacs and other traffic control measures coupled with license plate recognition to keep tabs on people going in and out of high-crime areas.

The aldermen also reiterated their long-standing complaint about McCarthy’s strategy of disbanding specialized units in favor of putting more officers on beat patrol.

“All we know is when the Mobile Strike Force and the Targeted Response Unit and rapid response units were in force, the numbers were lower,” Brookins said Friday.

“McCarthy and his team need to tell us why this system is better so we can articulate that to our constituents.”

Ald. Will Burns (4th), who attended the meeting with Hynes, added, “We want peoples’ rights to be respected. But we want more aggressive policing. We want more traffic stops, DUI and seat belt enforcement as a way to find the bad guys.”

Hynes could not be reached for comment about the meeting.

According to Brookins, the mayor’s political point-man agreed to “make the superintendent available to us individually and as a group to discuss what he’s doing in our wards and listen to our recommendations on hot spots.”

McCarthy has already shifted 200 police officers from desk jobs to street duty and reassigned them to “area saturation teams” already concentrating on gang violence that replaced the Mobile Strike Force he disbanded.

Last week, the superintendent said he was “continually refining” crime strategies and would be “rolling out a couple” more in the coming weeks after field testing showed “significant” results.

While some aldermen perceive McCarthy as arrogant, Brookins and Burns said that’s not what’s driving the political pressure.

“I don’t think our members will care about the personality if we get results and crime goes down,” Brookins said.

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