Former Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy is eager to lead the Willow Springs police. (Photos by Steve Metsch)

Former Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy is eager to lead the Willow Springs police. (Photos by Steve Metsch)

‘Put me back in, Coach’ – McCarthy eager to return to law enforcement

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By Steve Metsch

Garry McCarthy compared the blockbuster news of his return to policing to that of an athlete itching to get back on the field.

“Put me back in, Coach,” the former college athlete and Chicago Police Superintendent said Thursday morning.

McCarthy, 62, is six years removed from working in law enforcement. He spoke of his new job during a news conference at the Willow Springs Village Hall.

McCarthy was removed from his life’s passion when he was forced out by then Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel in November 2015, after his handling of the Laquan McDonald shooting death by a police officer.

After an unsuccessful run for mayor of Chicago, McCarthy had been content raising a young son at home.

However, an unlikely turn of events – “my neck hurts from my head spinning,” he joked – led to McCarthy taking the reins in Willow Springs.

It was an easy decision for McCarthy.

“This is what I do for a living,” he said. “Policing is not a job. It’s a calling. Having an opportunity to do something positive, to make a difference, at a time like this is critical.”

“I’m relatively well thought of in police circles and I think I’m going to do okay, have an impact,” McCarthy said.

News of his imminent hiring spread quickly Wednesday and his cell phone lit up with 150 to 200 text messages. The village had hoped to introduce McCarthy as chief next week.

McCarthy replaces Jim Ritz, who had been police chief more than three years. Ritz submitted his letter of resignation Monday.

Mayor Melissa Neddermeyer and Village Administrator Ryan Grace both declined to discuss why Ritz resigned.

Ritz did not respond to a message sent to his Facebook page.

The mayor said the village sought “a leader with experience, knowledge and professionalism to continue to move our department forward.”

Neddermeyer said she was “quite surprised” when Grace told her McCarthy was interested in the job.

McCarthy will review current procedures “to ensure we are following the best practices … and we are providing the safest environment for our officers,” Neddermeyer said.

Grace said he reached out to McCarthy through a mutual acquaintance. They talked. McCarthy liked what he heard.

McCarthy, whose first day on duty will be Monday, is eager to get  busy.

“It’s funny. You never know where you going to end up,” said McCarthy who worked in New York City and Newark, NJ, before moving to Chicago where he was superintendent from 2011 to 2015.

“You just can’t predict how these things are going to happen,” McCarthy said.

“Timing is everything in life. Also, a little bit of luck always helps. The timing is perfect,” McCarthy said.

“I couldn’t be happier to be here at this place and time,” McCarthy said, noting “it’s pretty clear (what law enforcement is doing) is not working.”

“The bottom line is it’s time for a shift,” he said. “I can’t wait to get back into the game. Put me back in, Coach.”

Being in a small community after leading a force of 13,000 Chicago police officers is not that much a change, he said.

“The scale is almost irrelevant. … Police work is police work,” he said. “There’s a move to go from warriors to guardians.”

McCarthy, pleased to see his first name spelled correctly on the front door of village hall, said he just bought a house in Chicago and will not move into the village.

McCarthy, who was a football linebacker and a baseball first basemen/outfielder at Albany State University, said his 5-year-old son keeps he and his wife busy at home. He has two sons, ages 35 and 31, from his first marriage.

The interim job is for six months during which the village will seek a permanent chief. If interested, McCarthy could be a candidate for the full-time job, Neddermeyer said.

Village Trustee Fred Posch thinks McCarthy’s knowledge will help: “We’re looking for guidance and I think he’ll be a good man for it.”

Lyons Police Chief Thomas Herion, who attended the news conference, said McCarthy brings “trust, integrity (and) honor.”

“He has tremendous contacts in law enforcement (and the) state’s attorney’s office,” Herion said. “It’s a win-win for everybody.”

Formerly with the Chicago Police Department, Herion said he sat on a public safety committee with McCarthy.

“He always came across as a very honorable, hardworking guy.”

Herion noted that murders in Chicago plunged from 800-some to 400-some in McCarthy’s last year there.

“Now, we’re at 800 again. You talk about methods of operation, Garry used to comment that we’re not arresting everyone, we’re arresting the right people.

“That’s how you reduce crime, arrested the individuals who are creating victims,” Herion said. “I will be picking his brain on ideas.”

Also attending was McCook Mayor Terrence Carr.

“This is like bringing Babe Ruth to the tee-ball game,” Carr said.

dvn garry mccarthy willow springs2

Willow Springs Mayor Melissa Neddermeyer (from left) and Village Administrator Ryan Grace are thrilled with the expertise brought by interim police chief Garry McCarthy.

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