I-Team Report: Chicago's New Top Cop

May 4, 2011 9:03:15 PM PDT
Garry McCarthy is the former NYPD operations chief and current Newark, New Jersey police director.

To understand the man who will be Chicago's new police superintendent, you have to know what he values most: a map of Iwo Jima carried by his father the day his dad was critically wounded in World War II. A bullet passed through the center of the bloodstained map.

His father's map symbolizes the planning, stability under fire and survival skills that McCarthy talks about bringing to Chicago - qualities that attracted Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel to him and Emanuel to McCarthy.

"First time I met him, we sat down and we had a great conversation and we kind of clicked personality wise," McCarthy told the I-Team.

As was the case in Newark, New Jersey when McCarthy arrived as police director five years ago, it will not be without significant change.

When McCarthy walks in the door at Chicago police headquarters shortly after Emanuel is sworn in a week from Monday, he promises to get several questions answered immediately.

"Where is everybody and what are they doing and why are they doing it that way? That's what it boils down to...I don't want cops that just chase the radio and handle calls for service. And I don't want cops that only do enforcement. So if the cops on patrol, on the beats, in the sectors, in the districts are there in the same places every day getting to know community at the same time while handling calls for service, being accountable and having the authority to do things, that's the best functional way to do it ," said McCarthy.

And then once he sees what Chicago police have been doing, some of it may change.

"When I got to Newark, asking those questions I found out way too many cops were doing Monday through Friday 9-5...that's not the nature of police work. Sitting in police car at 2 o'clock in the morning having cold coffee when you have five minutes to take a break is what we are accustomed to," said McCarthy.

McCarthy says no one should be accustomed to police misconduct like the now infamous Chicago barroom beating.

"That's a case that becomes very difficult to defend," said McCarthy."

That isn't to say Garry McCarthy is emotionless, especially when reliving September 11, 2001 when he was still with the New York City as the director of police operations.

"I lost a lot of friends. But just the critical nature of that event, it can't be understated," said McCarthy. "The response of the cops and the firemen and the civilians and the way that people pulled together that day was overwhelming."

On Sunday when Osama bin laden was killed, McCarthy says he was "ecstatic" and doesn't think the bin laden body photos should be released.

"I think that might result in some sort of reaction, quite frankly?I am the type of person who does trust the government. I was raised that way and when the president says something, I believe him," he said.

He says he also knows that just because bin Laden was killed the war on terror is not over.

"I know that's not the case. The problem is we are fighting a theology, we're not fighting a country...cutting off the head doesn't kill the snake in this case but it does give us all a little bit of closure," said McCarthy.

Closure but not a conclusion. McCarthy plans to give renewed law enforcement attention to Chicago as a potential terrorist target.

"New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, the three biggest cities in the country, would be greatest stage for attack," he said.

The last thing McCarthy wanted me to see was another memento from his father: a picture of his dad. After surviving the war wound, he became an NYPD detective and also survived a shootout that sent a bullet through his patrol car and his partner's police hat, both of them unscathed.

McCarthy turned 52 Wednesday.