Chicago police chief takes tough questions after complaints

CHICAGO (AP) — Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy fielded fierce questions on Tuesday from aldermen who demanded he be fired over claims Chicago's top cop hasn't done enough to curb rising street violence.

McCarthy's appearance at a budget hearing came a day after a group of mostly black aldermen — including allies of Mayor Rahm Emanuel — said McCarthy should step down. They cited a lack of responsiveness, persistent crime and low numbers of minorities employed at the department.

Emanuel, who appointed McCarthy in 2011, said Tuesday that he backed the chief. McCarthy said he planned to keep his job as long as possible.

"I'm frustrated too. I can only control what I can control, which is working hard and keeping my nose to the grindstone and that's what we're going to do," he told reporters. "It's not like this is a new problem in the city of Chicago. It's been going on for a very long time. From the day I got here, I've been offering solutions. And I'm going to focus on those solutions."

McCarthy spent most of the hourslong hearing facing scrutiny on violence, rising overtime and minority hiring.

At one of the tensest moments, Alderwoman Carrie Austin — a member of the council's Black Caucus — pounded her fist on the table and interrupted McCarthy for not directly answering questions.

"What can we do?" she shouted.

He said seeking help from state lawmakers, particularly on guns laws, was one way. But it didn't seem to satisfy Austin, who repeated the question several times as she sat next to McCarthy. Her comments drew applause.

The issue of gun violence is particularly raw as Chicago and other U.S. cities have recently seen spikes in violent crimes. In September more than 100 people were shot on two weekends.

Emanuel said he understood the frustration

"I'm standing by him," he said of McCarthy. "My focus . . . is on gangs and guns, not on Garry."

Calls for Chicago's police chief to step down aren't unusual. Both of McCarthy's predecessors had shorter terms. A day earlier, officials announced the retirement of Alfonza Wysinger, McCarthy's second-in-command.

Still, some aldermen blasted tactics employed by McCarthy, who began his career with New York City police.

"What I'm seeing is that your New York strategies are not working for Chicago crime," said Alderwoman Leslie Hairston, a Black Caucus member.

McCarthy disagreed. He reiterated his stance that the focus should be gun control policies because Chicago has a high number of illegal guns seized from the streets.

Tuesday's hearing was one of many on Emanuel's proposed budget, which calls for a massive property tax increase.


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This story has been corrected to show Wysinger's retirement was announced Monday, not Tuesday.