Chicago’s new police chief explains his strategy: Part 1

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There are those who would argue that no one who has not seen “The Wire” is qualified to be a big-city police chief.

Garry McCarthy, Chicago’s police superintendent for about the last four months, has not seen that TV drama series based in Baltimore (even though he once lived in that city). But he does have a strong idea of what Chicago’s police need to be doing.

Garry McCarthy (John H. White~Sun-Times)

His philosphy? A four-step process.

Step One: “Timely, accurate intelligence. You have to know what’s going on, when it’s going on and why it is going on.”

Step Two: “Rapid deployment. Once you know what is going on, you have to get there quickly to intercede in the next event.”

Step Three: “Effective tactics.”

Step Four: “Relentless followup and assessment. Look at what you did to see if it works. If it works, you do more of it. If it doesn’t, then do something else.”

McCarthy already has restructured the department at the top and he will push to put more authority and resources in the hands of district commanders. He also wants to create the position of executive officer for each district.

“Right now, if a district commander is on vacation or out sick or has a death in the family, you know who covers the district? The guy next door. They don’t have any accountability or any interest in what’s happening there. That’s just crazy.”

In a recent interview with the Chicago Sun-Times editorial board, McCarthy was careful to say that he will not ask for more police officers until he is sure the existing force has been restructured to its maximum efficiency. But he did say he will beef up the warrant and fugitive division.

“One area where we are going to make an investment is in warrant and fugitive apprehension,” he said. “Because you don’t have to be a brain surgeon or a criminologist to figure out that if you lock somebody up who is wanted right now, they don’t commit the next crime. Right? So if there are people walking out there who are wanted, we have an obligation to go out there and lock them up.That’s a good crime reduction strategy right there.”

If there is an area that sees a cutback, it might be in the number of detectives.

“We have about a thousand detectives,” McCarthy said. “Is that enough, or is it not enough? Anybody’s guess right now.”

However, a “back-of-the-envelope analysis” based on staffing levels in Newark and New York, where he previously worked, suggests Chicago may have more detectives than it needs, he said.

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