A majority of Chicago's African-American aldermen say they've had enough. They are calling on Mayor Emanuel to fire Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy after five years on the job. The say this year's rising violent crime numbers and what they believe is a general lack of accountability warrant McCarthy's ouster. The aldermen banded together today to issue this surprising statement.
Their rhetoric was harsh and unforgiving, saying that McCarthy has failed the communities in which they serve. What’s notable is that today’s group of aldermen includes several staunch Emanuel allies and supporters, including Budget Committee Chairman Ald. Carrie Austin (34th Ward) and Rules Committee Chair Ald. Michelle Harris (8th Ward). They say the reasons for their action have as much to do with the spike in shootings and homicides this year as with what they see as a lack of promoting and hiring African-Americans to top positions in the department. The aldermen also say they feel that McCarthy has turned a deaf ear to their concerns.
It is time for new leadership with a fresh approach.
–Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th Ward)
“The superintendent has had five years to address these issues and he has failed,” said Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th Ward), chairman of the black caucus. “It is time for new leadership with a fresh approach.”
“We’ve been trying to get him to listen to us for a few years now,” said Ald. Anthony Beale (9th Ward). “And there’s a level of disrespect for us in the black caucus.”
“We’ve all supported McCarthy in the past and it’s gotten to the point that, in all of our wards, we’re not happy with the results that we’re seeing,” said Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd Ward).
Also today, the second in command, Deputy Superintendent Al Wysninger, an African-American, announced his retirement from the force. The department announced that a Hispanic would replace him.
The black caucus said this move did not influence their decision today.
The announcement comes in the middle of budget hearings where aldermen will soon be asked to vote on the largest property tax hike in city history. Today’s move could be a way to divert attention from the coming pain.
There was also a very scolding editorial in the Chicago Tribune calling on aldermen to own the violence problem and own the solutions. I asked them today whether merely calling for the firing the top cop is enough.
“We own it every day,” said Ald. Carrie Austin. “Every time someone gets shot, gets killed, we’re the ones knocking on their doors.”
“We all organize block club meetings, we all go to CAPS meetings, we all do youth programs, we all try to create jobs,” said Dowell. “So it’s not just pointing the finger at what we are or aren’t doing, you also have to look at the leadership at the police department.”
The aldermen did not say who they’d like to see replace McCarthy, only to say they want a superintendent who will focus on the so-called small stuff like loitering, burglary, etc. because that can often lead to the heavier crimes.
The mayor’s office sent a statement that did not say in clear language that McCarthy’s job was safe, but stated:
"The Mayor supports the work and commitment of Superintendent McCarthy and the 12,500 sworn men and women of the Chicago Police Department. While the mayor shares the concerns about rising gun violence, our focus must remain on the public safety challenge we face – reducing access to the illegal guns that drive violence in our communities.”
The mayor appeared at an unrelated event this morning before news of this press conference surfaced. He elaborated on how he feels the city should respond to the recent spate of violence.
“We have to restrict access to guns of those with criminal records, we have open up the opportunity for jobs for those who want to make a change in their lives, and we have to have tougher penalties for those who use guns,” the mayor said.
Tomorrow, McCarthy is expected to face City Council for the police department’s budget hearing – the questioning from aldermen is expected to get heated.