When First Deputy Superintendent Anthony Ricco joined the Chicago Police Department in 1985, he said police “were an occupying force.”
“We went into neighborhoods — almost like a military — and we locked down neighborhoods. And if you moved, we stopped your car and we searched you and we did all kinds of things,” he said.
That’s not how policing is done anymore, Riccio said Tuesday during an exit interview with WTTW News ahead of the his retirement which takes effect Aug. 1. (Watch our full interview with Riccio here.)
“We are now guardians, and we have to be … in a relationship with the community. We cannot impose anything on anyone,” he said.
Riccio, who was made CPD’s second-in-command in 2018, said policing should continue to evolve.
“We want a real relationship with the community, where they work with us and we work with them. It sounds very simple. And it sounds very basic. Because it is. If the community is willing to work with us, and we are willing to work with them, every neighborhood can be as safe as his Lincoln Parker or Edison Park,” he said. “But we have to establish that relationship. And we both have to be willing — and not just not just the community and not just the police — we both have to be willing to hit the reset button and say, ‘we’re going to give this a try, we’re going to both give this a legitimate try.’”
Riccio said that fully defunding the police, however, would be “horrific.”
“The fact that you can get in your car and go to the grocery store, or take your kids for a bike ride, or take your dog for a walk, is all dependent on the fact that there’s police officers out there who can protect you,” he said. “And as soon as that is no longer the case, we all become the prey. And we can’t live in a society where we are constantly the prey, it just can’t happen.”
Calls for defunding the police are at a fever pitch following the May 25 killing of George Floyd, a Black man, at the knee of a white Minneapolis police officer, and make it a “challenging” time to be a police officer, Riccio said.
“We see the rioting and we see the looting. Nobody wants to be that next YouTube video. Nobody wants to be that next 15-second clip on the news. So officers are a little bit on their heels when it comes to that,” he said. “Opportunists and the criminals and the thugs and the gangbangers have taken advantage of that. And that’s why we see the rise in shootings and the rise of murders to just ridiculous levels that we haven’t seen in years.”
It’s not just the racial tensions, rioting and calls for defunding the police — the coronavirus is also a challenge.
“The very nature of being the police is to be hands on, to touch people, to be in people’s cars, search warrants — to go in people’s homes — or just going into a victim’s home to take a report,” he said. “And this virus has everybody scared, nobody wants to contract it, number one, but more importantly, nobody wants to bring it home and be responsible for infecting their kids or their parents or grandparents and get somebody sick or worse.”
Riccio said the “pendulum will swing again” and crime will once again trend downward, and that the strategies Superintendent David Brown – who took office just three months ago – should drive stats in the right direction.
“I have a lot of confidence that he’s going to be able to … right this ship,” Riccio said of Brown. “He’s the first man in the building in the morning and he’s the last man out at night. He, he knows what to do. And he’s working hard. He’s working with all parties.”
Follow Amanda Vinicky on Twitter: @AmandaVinicky