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McCarthy fires back at Lightfoot for saying he never should have been hired

Former Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy talked to Sun-Times reporter Fran Spielman the day after he announced his mayoral candidacy. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Mayoral challenger Garry McCarthy on Wednesday denounced as “revisionist history” former Police Board President Lori Lightfoot’s claim that McCarthy’s “track record” was so “troubling,” he never should have been hired as Chicago police superintendent.

“If somebody wants to talk about my record, let’s go back and look at my scorecard and see what it looks like,” McCarthy said.

“In the two-year period after I was fired, there were 1,400 people murdered in Chicago. The 770 people murdered in 2016 represented an 80 percent increase from where we were.”

McCarthy said he won’t be drawn into an intramural fight with Lightfoot that distracts from the overriding issue: Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s seven-year track record of “globetrotting,” “pay-to-play” and “let`em eat cake.”

“If somebody else wants to take shots at me, knock yourself out. That’s exactly what’s wrong with politics in this city,” he said.

Lightfoot is scheduled to formally announce her candidacy on Thursday.

In an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times setting the stage for her announcement, Lightfoot was asked if McCarthy should have been fired or whether Emanuel made McCarthy a scapegoat for his own handling of the Laquan McDonald shooting video.

Lightfoot responded by questioning “Rahm’s judgment in hiring him in the first instance” given, what she called McCarthy’s “troubling” track record.

She called McCarthy “a guy [who] still sincerely believes that stop-and-frisk, stopping everything that moves without legal justification, without meeting the constitutional restrictions is appropriate.” She noted that “a consent decree followed his tenure in Newark” and will soon follow his tenure in Chicago.

“His record is relevant. It’s not only relevant for him. It’s relevant for Rahm. The threshold question is, should he have been hired in the first instance?” she said.

Lori Lightfoot, former president of the Chicago Police Board in the Sun-Times newsroom May 8, 2018. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Lori Lightfoot, former president of the Chicago Police Board in the Sun-Times newsroom Tuesday. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times


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On Wednesday, McCarthy branded the allegation “absurd” and “revisionist history.”

He referred to the “nine-year low” in violent crime achieved by his former longtime aide, Wilmington, Del. Police Chief Robert Tracy, in a place once known as the “most violent small city” in America.

“Look at New York City and the strategies and tactics that I put in place and look at where New York is with 290 murders last year in a city three times the size of Chicago,” McCarthy said.

“Then go back and look at my track record in the city of Newark. We did less enforcement. We got less complaints against officers. We did more specific enforcement, which meant that we got more guns and the results were much better. So, the revisionist history I’m just not gonna deal with.”

McCarthy said he has a “35-year track record of planning and executing things” that work, including a 2012 NATO Summit in Chicago that saw McCarthy on the front lines in a way that turned him into a local folk hero.

“I’m not gonna debate it. It is what it is. Some bad things happened. It was never perfect. But we were certainly getting there and it certainly went in the opposite direction” after he was fired, McCarthy said.

McCarthy was asked what he believes would happen to proactive policing in Chicago if Lightfoot were elected mayor.

She has argued the police contract “codifies the code of silence” and needs to be changed to make it easier to discipline wayward officers.

“You’d have to go and ask them. But I can tell you this: They know that nobody’s got their back today,” McCarthy said.

To underscore the need for a return to the strong policing tactics he used and favors, McCarthy pointed to the flash mob of teenagers that jumped on cars, harassed and intimidated shoppers last weekend on Michigan Avenue. One of those teenagers was arrested for throwing liquid on a police officer.

On his watch, McCarthy said, “as soon as those mobs showed up downtown, we walked with them. Some would complain that, if we stopped them, we were violating their rights because they hadn’t done anything.

“So that’s fine. We walked with them. And we walked with them until they got tired of walking and then, they got back on the train and they left,” McCarthy added.

“We used the heavy-handed tactics that people accuse us of using. What we did was, we made sure there was no criminal activity.”