Usually when New Yorkers working in Chicago are shown the door, there’s no question of it hitting them from behind on the way out, so eager are they to depart.
Former Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy has proven an exception, a matter sure to draw political conjecture after a Monday speech to the City Club of Chicago that drew a mostly adoring crowd to hear his don’t-blame-the-police message.
Sounding almost Donald-Trump-like at times, McCarthy took a couple of swipes at Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and decried the “lawlessness in America” that he said has been created by a “culture today that is investigating police instead of criminals.”
McCarthy told his listeners he’s not interested in being a politician, but the enthusiastic applause for his views indicated he’d find some support if he wanted to try his hand.
I got tired of McCarthy’s macho Bronx shtick long before Mayor Rahm Emanuel made him the fall guy amid the fallout over the delayed release of video showing police officer Jason Van Dyke shooting Laquan McDonald.
So don’t misinterpret anything written here as encouragement.
Still, I recognize there’s an audience for some of what McCarthy has to say in a city reeling from gun violence that he claims credit for having reduced early in his tenure with the Chicago Police Department.
“Simply stated, the police are not the problem in this country. The criminals are. And I don’t think anybody has the audacity to say that today, because politically speaking, you’re either on the bus or under it,” McCarthy told the packed room at Maggiano’s.
The remark drew laughter from the luncheon audience, which assumed it was a reference to Emanuel throwing McCarthy under the bus.
McCarthy protested it was not.
“No, that’s not a backhanded reference to anything that may or may not …,” McCarthy said, the rest drowned out by the applause. I’m not sure everyone was convinced.
RELATED: McCarthy: I wouldn’t have released McDonald video
But McCarthy avoided any direct criticism of Emanuel during his speech, and obliquely defended him when a questioner gave him an opening later. McCarthy spoke instead of the difficulty of being mayor.
McCarthy’s basic message was that government efforts to get a handle on police shootings have only made things worse by “empowering criminals” and “legitimizing non-compliance” with police.
McCarthy didn’t defend any of the highly-publicized police shooting incidents, arguing that they were all avoidable with better training, tactics, policies and supervision.
But he glided right past the whole part about how improper police shootings are only now coming to light because of the availability of video proving what was long covered up.
As to the McDonald video, it would still be under wraps if left to McCarthy.
The former top cop said that if anybody had asked (and nobody did), he would have recommended against making it public while the case was still pending, as had been city policy. He said police officers accused of lying about what they witnessed should not have been disciplined while the case against Van Dyke is pending.
“Releasing videos is not going to build trust,” he said.
It does when the videos show the police doing things right.
McCarthy also offered criticism of the Department of Justice over its efforts to halt racial bias in police stops, somewhat ironic considering his tenures as chief in both Chicago and Newark were followed by DOJ investigations.
“Why would you stop anyone if you are a police officer in Chicago today?” he asked.
It was McCarthy’s marriage to a Chicagoan that has kept him here, along with a job as a security consultant.
But as long as he’s here, he has the potential to be a player.