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NATO summit boosts police chief's standing with cops

A Chicago police blog is suddenly full of praise for Superintendent Garry McCarthy, who has drawn mostly derision from blog commenters in the past.
A Chicago police blog is suddenly full of praise for Superintendent Garry McCarthy, who has drawn mostly derision from blog commenters in the past.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

Chicago Police Chief Garry McCarthy may have fundamentally altered his relations with the rank and file, thanks to NATO's high-pressure days in May.

When police batons came out Sunday night, just a couple of blocks west of McCormick Place, McCarthy was right there. The TV cameras kept panning over from the weekend's most serious clash with demonsrators to show the chief, just a few yards behind the police line that was under assault.

The crowd of black-clad, hardcore, anarchist protesters was throwing all manner of stuff, and the Chief was in easy range. He was standing on a raised platform, visible to the demonstrators, with no protective gear on.

Cops noticed. Just read the Second City Cop blog.

Those who post on SCC, mostly officers and ex-officers, almost never have anything good to say about leadership of the city or the PD.

Mayor Emanuel is often called “Tiny Dancer” (he danced ballet in his youth) or “The Raccoon” because of the dark circles under his eyes. Former Chief Jody Weis is almost always “J-Fed”, a sneering reference to his background at the FBI.

McCarthy ticked off a lot of rank and file almost immediately after being appointed by Emanuel, after he told a South Side church congregation that lax gun control laws were tantamount to government racism. He made those remarks in the church of Father Michael Pfleger, a controversial priest a lot of cops hate.

In the couple of weeks before the summit, Chief McCarthy had lots of McSnotty blog nicknames— McDumbass, McBarFly (a reference to the chief’s alleged penchant for nightlife), McJersey, McNewIdeas.

Just last week, one post asked “Can we admit that McCrossbowRescue’s strategies are an unmitigated failure?” I have no idea what that nickname is about, but it’s clearly no compliment.

Monday, the tone shifted, big-time. In a post entitled “McCarthy In the Open”, the SCC blogger had a rare kind word for McCarthy: “We’ll give the guy his props…Nicely done Superintendent.”

Commenters, most claiming to be cops, echoed the praise.

  • “I was having a tough go at it with a few guys when I went to get water and out of the blue the Supt. walked up and said I got ur back…say what u will but this guy really cares about us and maybe we should back him up as well.”
  • “Im really starting to like that guy. he was right there with us battling the protesters at 22nd/Michigan. He was even handing out water to us.”
  • “McCarthy was indeed right there giving orders, patting police on the back, even throwing debris back behind the line of cops if it came there way. He frequently walked unescorted… and didn’t seem to be worried about anything.”

There was a testicular tone to many of the kudos. McCarthy “earned himself some McNuggets” said one post. “Like him or not, he got a set” read another huzzah. There were a couple of comparisons to former Bears coach Mike Ditka— the ultimate icon for the Chicago tough-guy crowd.

Even McCarthy’s departure from macho stoicism impressed some. “When I saw him choke back tears in an interview I thought I might have to reconsider my opinion of him,” wrote one commenter. “His emotion seemed genuine.”

“I can cry on cue too," wrote another. “Although with the fast/furious pace of the day, I doubt he'd have the where-withall to fake those emotions.”

Not every commenter thought so. Positive reviews outnumbered negatives by perhaps 8-1, but some remain skeptical.

“He might not be half bad if he took our back over rahms. He unfortunatly will tow the rahm plan all the way home to the bank. ..I will give this ONE to mccarthy. Much much more is needed to get my loyalty,” wrote one anonymous commenter.

Some chose to see it all as a publicity stunt, and took complimentary commenters to task:

“that's the problem with coppers - THEY FORGET. McMomentInTheSun did what every politician does: pander to the audience. This was a political move more than a "I'm gonna be there for my troops" move. ..He is in self preservation mode because of his dismal track record.”

McCarthy is still Emanuel’s chief, and lots of cops worry Emanuel’s going to be cutting their department and their pensions, to balance the city budget.

Still, McCarthy clearly rehabilitated himself with a lot of cops and may have rid his department of long-standing ghosts. “YOU LOOKED MARVELOUS”, who said he was a retired CPD sergeant, thought so: “You have helped to erase the image of the 1968 "police riot”… and have created a NEW image of Chicago Police officers as a modern urban tactical fighting force, cool-headed and competent, yet not one to be trifled with.”

A month ago, the proprietor of the Second City Cop blog was suggesting the NATO summit would be “Rahm’s Katrina”, due to poor planning. “McJersey is blowing it and so in everyone else associated with him,” he thundered.

Not hardly. The mayor and his chief have come out smelling like roses, and police officers are being hailed as summit heroes. It's a whole new ballgame. The White Sox will honor CPD for its handling of the summit at Wednesday night’s game, and will offer free tickets to every cop on the force.

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