McCarthy left Newark police a mess, too

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When he took the job as police superintendent in Chicago in 2011, Garry McCarthy left behind a department in Newark that faced many of the same type of problems that now plague the Chicago Police Department.

While he ran the Newark department, the American Civil Liberties Union documented a pattern of police abuse, civil rights violations, and a lack of internal discipline. On Thursday, the former director of the New Jersey ACLU wrote that she had warned Chicago officials before McCarthy was chosen to be Chicago’s superintendent of the department problems under him.

Following up the ACLU complaint, the U.S. Department of Justice launched an investigation in May 2011, just as McCarthy left Newark, into the pattern and practices of the department.

The Justice Department conclusions last year mirror many of the complaints now enveloping CPD:

–Newark’s black citizens “bear the brunt” of the department’s pattern of “unconstitutional policing.”

— There was “reasonable cause to believe” the department engaged in a “pattern or practice of unreasonable force.”

— The department failed to properly review cases involving unreasonable force, including cases when the police used lethal force.

U.S. attorney general Loretta Lynch announced a probe this week into the patterns and practices of the police department in Chicago, just days after Mayor Rahm Emanuel dismissed McCarthy.

To be sure, national police experts warn the problems in Chicago go far beyond McCarthy. “The issues that have been going on in Chicago preceded Garry McCarthy’s arrival and are decades in the making,” said Jim Bueermann, president of the DC-based Police Foundation.

McCarthy held the title of director of the Newark department — the top job there — from 2006 until he took over Chicago’s department in 2011. The Justice Department found that Newark officials had sustained only one complaint of excessive force between 2007 and 2012, largely covering the period McCarthy was in charge.

The Justice Department examined 67 excessive force complaints in Newark in detail, and reported its own review identified 14 cases of excessive force, and 27 other cases where the police reports on the incident were so lacking that no judgment could be made about whether improper force was used.

The Department also found that Newark failed to properly handle cases in which the police used lethal force, stating, the department’s “handling of officer-involved shootings has fallen strikingly short of generally accepted police practices.”

The report is eerily parallel to the issues surrounding the Chicago department, from which McCarthy was fired after the release last month of the video showing the shooting death of 17-year old Laquan McDonald. The city had fought release of the video, capturing an incident 14 months ago, until ordered to do so by a Cook County associate judge.

On Wednesday morning, Mayor Emanuel apologized to the City Council for the incident.

The Invisible Institute has created a database of police complaints, obtained as a result of  a lawsuit against the department’s refusal to release the information, that shows more than 95 percent of the complaints are not sustained.

It was Emanuel who chose McCarthy, despite the ACLU complaint that, days later, would touch off the Justice Department investigation.  In that regard, McCarthy is only one of a series of appointments in recent years to key posts whose past actions would prove troubling.

Former schools superintendent Barbara Byrd-Bennett pleaded guilty in October to wire fraud in connection with a kickback scheme. The Chicago Sun-Times would later report that FBI agents had been investing Byrd-Bennett for similar crimes in Detroit, where she worked before coming to Chicago.

Amer Ahmad, the former city controller, was extradited this summer from Pakistan, where he had fled after being convicted in connection with a kickback scheme while he was an Ohio finance official, before ever taking the job in Chicago. Mayor Emanuel has criticized Ohio officials for not alerting him that the FBI was already investigating Ahmad’s actions at the time he was hired to Chicago.

This week the city’s chief of detectives, Dean Andrews, abruptly retired.  Andrews had been promoted two months ago by McCarthy to the post, even despite an ongoing investigation by the city’s inspector general into his role in the police investigation into the death of David Koschman. At issue is whether police officers, including Andrews, falsified reports to protect the suspect, who was a nephew of former Mayor Richard Daley.

Emily Hoerner contributed reporting. 

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