McCarthy to police recruits: Be nice

July 2, 2012 4:46:14 PM PDT
With Chicago's murder rate on the rise and some communities skeptical of efforts to stop the violence, a new class of police recruits began its work Monday.

Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy went to the police academy with what some may think is a surprising message: Be nice.

From the routine to the potentially lifesaving - recruits will learn the nuts and bolts of police work over the next 25 weeks.

On Monday, though, on day one: a frank assessment from the superintendent.

"There are huge, huge gaps in many communities where people don't trust us, and in some cases it's our fault," said McCarthy.

Garry McCarthy hopes to instill in these recruits the theory of 'police legitimacy.'

Essentially: They have to earn respect with each and every public encounter.

"You leave them with a smile, and you leave them with a feeling of, 'You know what? I understand why this officer just did that.'"

On the street: That means officers explaining their actions: From a simple traffic ticket to why they're giving a group of kids on a corner a second look.

McCarthy says he's been on the beat when it doesn't happen and the department loses a potential ally.

"They pull up to assist us and I hear one guy getting out of the car and he was using language that was highly inappropriate. And he didn't realize it was me. As soon as he saw it was me, he was like 'Oh, gee, I'm sorry sir,' and I said, 'Don't tell me you're sorry... tell them you're sorry.'"

In a department that's seen its share of scandal: "Every single member who is a member of the Chicago Police Department suffers when there's someone like a Jon Burge," said McCarthy.

It's a fresh message not lost on a class of new recruits that includes a 20 year veteran of the South Elgin force and a Marine who served a tour in Iraq.

"I want the people on the street to recognize me as a friendly face and be able to not just see me as a police officer but as a person out to help."

Recruits also heard another surprising message from McCarthy: he said "deterrence does not work." He meant that rarely do people think of the consequences before pulling the trigger. For that reason he says police need more community allies not fewer.

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