Mayoral challenger Garry McCarthy vowed Monday to “eliminate political manipulation” of the Chicago Police Department and cancel plans to build a $95 million police academy in favor of restoring mental health clinics closed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

“This police academy is a shiny object that Rahm Emanuel can point to and say, `I’m all about police reform.’ It’s for political purposes — not functional purposes,“ McCarthy said.

“I could find much better ways to spend that money that would have a much greater impact on what’s happening in Chicago. … I’d use that $95 million to put social services and mental health centers back in communities that need them the most. Crime reduction is not just about the police. Everybody knows that. But we’re not acting on it.”

The police academy has become a symbol of Emanuel’s misplaced priorities, drawing fire from Chance the Rapper, Black Lives Matter and other groups operating under the #NoCopAcademy label. Emanuel even has been confronted by anti-academy protesters on college campus visits in other cities.

The coalition has argued that the money would be better spent on jobs, youth and education programs.

A fired Chicago Police superintendent, McCarthy would seem an unlikely candidate to join the #NoCopAcademy crowd — until one considers that he has strongly condemned the driving force behind the police academy project: a U.S. Justice Department report triggered by the police shooting of Laquan McDonald. That report found CPD’s training to be sorely lacking — a finding McCarthy disputes.

“We were not only in compliance. We exceeded the Illinois State Training Board’s recommendations and requirements for training. So if Chicago has a problem, the entire state of Illinois has a problem,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy has long accused Emanuel of “political manipulation and micro-management.” He has not provided specific evidence beyond his claim that he was the victim of a political “witch hunt” engineered by top mayoral aides to mask the fact that the “entirety of that cover-up” of the Laquan McDonald shooting video “occurred at City Hall.”

Former Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy

Mayor candidate Garry McCarthy held a press conference outside Chicago Police headquarters Monday. | Colin Boyle/Sun-Times

On Monday, McCarthy was asked again for evidence of Emanuel’s “micro-management.”

“Four-and-a-half years of working for Rahm Emanuel,” he said.

So, McCarthy put up with it?

“I fought it [and stayed on] because I loved my job and we were doing something really special,” he said.

Emanuel responded by accusing McCarthy of having a totally different position during his tenure as police superintendent.

“That was then and this is now. So you should ask him: ‘What changed?’” the mayor said.

Emanuel then ticked off the ways he claims to have demonstrated leadership on the fight against violent crime.

“To the 32,000 kids having a job this summer, that’s leadership. To the 115,000 kids that have after-school programs so they’re not on the streets, that’s leadership,” the mayor said.

“Adding 1,000 new officers to the Police Department is leadership. Making sure that, when your Police Board comes up short on good choices, you reach in. Not only do you find Eddie Johnson. A week later, you pass him 50-to-zero,” he said.

“I know what his position was before, which is totally contradictory to the position he’s taken today. But, I [also] know what leadership is.”

Mayoral challenger Paul Vallas has pledged to rebuild the Chicago Police Department to 14,000 officers — with 1,200 detectives and one sergeant for every 10 patrol officers — to erase years of “bad decisions” by Emanuel that, Vallas claims, contributed heavily to a surge in violent crime.

McCarthy is equally critical of that crime surge, pointing to the 332 additional Chicago murder victims over the last three years, compared to the three years before that, during his watch as police superintendent.

But he would not decide whether to hire more police officers until a “workload analysis” is conducted that includes crimes and calls for service.

“I would hire more, if we need to. … [But] we may not need 1,000 officers. I don’t know where that number comes from. Who did the work analysis?” he said.

Chicago mayoral candidate Garry McCarthy

Chicago mayoral candidate Garry McCarthy speaks at a press conference held outside Chicago Police headquarters. | Colin Boyle/Sun-Times

McCarthy’s crime reduction plan also includes:

• Giving the superintendent — not the Police Board — final say over police discipline and asking a panel of experts to conduct a top-to-bottom review of the disciplinary system, including the role of the Civilian Office of Police Accountability.

The City Council’s Black Caucus is threatening to hold up ratification of any police contract that continues to make it “easy for officers to lie” by giving them 24 hours before providing a statement after a shooting and includes “impediments to accountability.” Those impediments include prohibiting anonymous complaints, allowing officers to change statements after reviewing video and requiring sworn affidavits.

But McCarthy said officers should be allowed to see the video before making a statement because police shootings are “traumatic events.”

“Having been through a number of traumatic events, then talking to my peers, we all saw different things,” he said.

“It’s not like they’re lying. They probably believe what they’re saying. The problem is, their minds are clouded by the aggressive nature of the adrenaline and the traumatic impact of those things.”

• Using “data-driven policing strategies” to “reduce specialization,” abolish police task forces, and put more cops on the beat. McCarthy also promised to implement an enforcement strategy that “de-prioritizes routine drug arrests” in favor of “anti-gang strategies” and cracking down on possession of illegal firearms.

“The department has become specialized again in that there’s less officers on the street, but a higher head-count. How can that be?” McCarthy said.

“Data-driven policing relies on beat officers to do police work, not just to answer calls for service. … That’s why I broke up those task forces and put them into beats and districts. Geographical accountability, rather than roaming around the city having no connection with the community. Those task forces are back. … We’ve reversed field. That’s why crime is up. Shootings are up and murders are up.”

• Rolling out a community relations strategy created in conjunction with the community, but shelved by Emanuel in 2015, setting the stage for “difficult conversations about the racial tension affecting, not only this city, but also the entire country and the historic socio-economic divide that has caused it.” McCarthy noted that body cameras might “increase officer integrity,” but cannot “overcome 400 years of systemic government racism in this country.”

• Transferring dispatchers from the Office of Emergency Management and Communications to the Chicago Police Department to eliminate mistakes like the one made the night Chicago Police Officer Robert Rialmo fatally shot Quintonio LeGrier and neighbor/bystander Bettie Jones.

Two 911 center dispatchers were suspended without pay for hanging up on LeGrier and failing to dispatch police in response to the young man’s pleas for help.

When Chicago Police finally did respond to the December 2015 incident, Rialmo shot and killed the baseball-bat-wielding LeGrier and accidentally killed Jones.

• Creating a “clearly delineated career path” for all ranks, especially exempt members, thereby “reducing the percentage of merit promotions” widely despised by the police union.