“Fixing” the Police

“…I’m asking you to be the police. That is what our residents are asking for.”
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“Fixing” the Police

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Robert Byrnes
Chief Operating Officer
McCarthy Byrnes

March 7, 2023

By Garry McCarthy

February 22, 2023

“…I’m asking you to be the police.

That is what our residents are asking for.”


The world of policing is upside down. Especially here in Chicago.

That is because politics are dictating police policy.

We now listen to mayoral candidates prattle on about how to “fix” the problems of crime and proper policing, but it is clear that most have no understanding of how to do it.

We hear about jobs, economic development, inclusion, equity, building trust, civilian oversight, accountability and so on. Sounds great!

How do we go about it, and what works?

Essentially, policing has abandoned its core mission of providing for the public safety in search of trust. We paint fences, dance at block parties, pump gas, take seniors food shopping. All nice things to do, without a doubt.

Does it work? No. We look foolish to the criminals who are even more emboldened by this appearance of ambivalence, if not outright weakness. The methods being used to build trust have resulted in its erosion by undermining our legitimacy, while diverting valuable resources to another failed effort.

It is an ongoing commitment to a faulty process. The result is an explosion of lawlessness. We have thrown out the baby with the bath water. The castigation of our profession has had dire consequences that we are seeing nationally.

We can’t build trust without first building legitimacy. Our legitimacy comes from doing our job and making people safe. There are long term solutions, and short term solutions. Make no mistake, we certainly need economic development, jobs and opportunity to succeed. But those are long-term goals that won’t happen until we first provide for the public safety.

Unfortunately, what is being offered is public relations over public protection.

Where is the plan? There is no plan.

We have proven that the police can reduce crime, and do it in a constitutional fashion, with greater citizen satisfaction.

I oversaw New York City’s crime strategy for seven years as the NYPD’s Deputy Commissioner Operations. I helped create the playbook that continued the downward trend of crime, complaints against officers and police related shootings. We took that plan to Newark NJ in 2006, with the same results. Cory Booker is a U.S . Senator today in part because of those results.

In Chicago, we created the Chicago Plan, taking the blueprint we improved on in Newark and made it Chicago centric, addressing the gang violence that plagues this city, by preventing retaliation as soon as a shooting occurred. We did that through data driven policing, knowing which gangs were in conflict, knowing where their “turfs” were, and who the members were.

We deployed resources to the rival gang turf quickly after a shooting occurred, preventing the next one.

We created beat and geographic integrity by eliminating citywide units and putting the same officers in the same beats everyday. We pushed down authority and accountability to the beat level.

Working with the top criminologists in the country, we created Police Legitimacy training that the
Department of Justice adopted and brought police departments from across the country to Chicago to learn from us and replicate in their jurisdictions.

Most importantly, we created internal career paths, with clear methods for advancement.

What were the results? In 2014, we had the lowest murder rate in Chicago since 1965. At the same time, we reduced overall crime, police related shootings, and complaints against officers, while increasing citizen satisfaction.

To create external legitimacy, we must start internally, within the Chicago Police Department. If we expect officers to treat the public with fairness and respect, we must treat our officers the same way. This current administration has destroyed that internal legitimacy…intentionally, politically, and unapologetically.

As a result of having no discernible plan to correct the problem, police officers suffer, citizens suffer and politicians gain cheap campaign taglines.

Certainly, if an officer violates the law, they should be prosecuted. If they violate policy, they should be disciplined. They also should have the opportunity to advance their career based upon their work ethic and talent. There needs to be a career path within the agency, not a game of chutes and ladders based upon who you know.

Sadly, we’ve put the cart before the horse. It might sound great to throw around platitudes and buzz words, but that is part of the systematic failure that we are experiencing now.

As a result, the city is drowning in crime.

Alderman Jason Ervin put it best at the police budget hearing in October when he told Superintendent David Brown, “… I’m not asking you to be a social worker. I am not asking you to be a mental health counselor. I’m not asking you to be a basketball coach. …I’m asking you to be the police. That is what our residents are asking for.”

If they can see it, why can’t everyone else?

It is time to declare failure and move on.

The city is dying, awash in lawlessness.


Garry is currently the Chief of police for the village of Willow Springs, Illinois. Prior to his law enforcement position in Willow Springs, Garry was the Police Superintendent of the Chicago Police Department 2011-2015, the Police Director of the Newark,N. J. Police Department 2006-2011, and 25 years with the New York City Police Department ,becoming the Deputy Commissioner of Operations, as the principal crime control strategist for the nation’s largest police Department. He is also CEO of McCarthyByrnes, providing investigations, security, and security consulting services. His email is [email protected]

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