CITY HALL — Supt. Garry McCarthy called out troubled rapper Chief Keef Thursday as an example of the difficulties in prosecuting juvenile crime.
Chief Keef, 18, whose real name is Keith Cozart, was sentenced to 60 days in juvenile detention in January for violating probation by pointing a gun at a cop in 2011.
He recently served a weeklong stint in the county lockup for failing a drug test. That test was instigated by a conviction for speeding on the Edens Expy. with a learner's permit.
"Juvenile crime is a burgeoning problem," McCarthy said, not just citywide but nationally.
Without mentioning Chief Keef by name, he made reference to an "aspiring musician" who "keeps getting arrested and keeps getting let out on the street and keeps offending."
He called that an example of why it was difficult to rein in juvenile crime.
A spokesman confirmed Chicago's top cop was talking about Chief Keef, an Englewood native who signed an Interscope Records contract that could bring him $6 million.
McCarthy also said that in his own youth he was on the rifle team and was "a card-carrying member of the NRA."
But he quickly added that gun ownership was treated too lightly in American society and called the 16 hours of training required by the state's new concealed-carry law "wholly inadequate."
McCarthy's comments came during City Council budget hearings, at which he boasted of a continued drop in crime, but also warned that overtime for cops on the street was expected to soar to $93 million by the end of the year.
He tangled with Ald. Jason Ervin (28th) over African-American promotions in the department.
McCarthy cited figures that the Police Department is 24 percent African-American overall, but he said African Americans made up 29 percent of "exempt" positions of commander and above. He said 38 percent of discretionary promotions under his tenure were given to African-Americans, 36 percent to the rank of detective and 50 percent among both sergeants and lieutenants.
"This is progress," McCarthy said, "and I don't know how to handle it any other way."
Yet Ervin insisted that year-to-year the number of top-ranking African-Americans was down in the department.
"We're promoting the right people," McCarthy said, "while paying attention to the demographics." Ervin disputed that.
"I'm not going to sit here and listen to you tell me what I'm saying," McCarthy said.
Ervin said if McCarthy couldn't see his point, "I don't feel you're the right person to lead the department."
At that point, Ald. Carrie Austin (34th), chairman of the Budget Committee, turned off McCarthy's microphone.
"You're not responding," she said, and went on to the next alderman's questions. McCarthy bristled, but continued with the hearing.
Later, Ald. George Cardenas (12th) pressed him on Hispanic hiring.
"In the world of Hispanics, Latinos, Latinas, that's where we are lacking," McCarthy said. He said the department was 21 percent Hispanic, but only 14 percent in high-ranking exempt positions.
"I acknowledge it," McCarthy said. "I recognize it as an issue."
He added that he was working to hire and promote more Hispanic officers.
Earlier, McCarthy said there were about 500 fewer shooting incidents and 623 fewer shooting victims so far this year compared to the same time period in 2012. That, he said, has led to 91 fewer murders this year, a 20 percent drop.
"We're having great success reducing shootings," McCarthy said. He called it "a very good year as far as progress goes ... but we absolutely have a long way to go."
According to police figures, there were 323 murders this year through the end of September, 90 of which had been solved, for a clearance rate of 27 percent. Yet adding murders solved in 2013 for previous years, the overall clearance rate rose to 54 percent.
McCarthy said the Police Department's head count was 12,538, and the department was keeping pace with retirements, having hired 502 new officers this year before 450 retirements expected next year. He admitted that the city had 1,000 more officers in 2000.
The 2014 budget will more than double the allocation for overtime pay to $71 million. McCarthy said the department had spent $70 million so far this year on overtime, most of it on the Operation Impact initiative to curb gun violence in the neighborhoods, and was on a pace to ring up $93 million in OT for the year.
He called that "unusual circumstances" he said would not be continued at the same rate next year, but acknowledged it was cheaper to pay overtime than hire more officers and paying their pension and benefits.