CHICAGO (CBS) — You might not know Anthony Riccio’s name, but you likely know his face.
Riccio has served nine police superintendents in Chicago, and he has seen a lot over the years. But now, the Chicago police first deputy superintendent is retiring.
He sat down with CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov on Tuesday for a conversation about crime and race in Chicago.
“The first thing I want to do is just be retired for a little while,” Riccio said.
Riccio has been a Chicago Police officer for 34 years, since Harold Washington was mayor. He rose through the ranks, and is leaving the department just as new Supt. David Brown immerses himself in his own role.
Riccio said reset is needed when it comes to relationships with the city’s Black and Latinx communities.
“They need to trust us and we need to earn their trust. But they need to trust us, and they need to give us the chance, and they need to give us an opportunity,” Riccio said. “We need to hit a reset button.”
Kozlov: “You’re retiring at a very tumultuous time as well for the Chicago Police Department when it comes to Black communities and the relationship with police departments in Chicago and around the country – charges of systemic racism. What are your thoughts on that?”
Riccio: “We need to be more of guardians than we are occupiers.”
Kozlov: “Do you believe that there is validity to widespread claims of systemic racism within both the Chicago Police Department and other police departments nationally?”
Riccio: “I know it’s a problem. It’s a problem in the country. It’s a problem in the world, racism, it’s not something that’s unique to policing. It’s not something… it’s all over.”
Riccio acknowledged that George Floyd’s death in May at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer was a tipping point for many outraged by instances of police brutality and mistreatment, and he acknowledged there is work to be done.
“It’s kind of the perfect storm of problems this year, but I think we’ll turn it around,” Riccio said.
Kozlov asked Riccio how strong relationships between police and activists and community leaders are to peace and trust.
“That’s really the key to it,” he said.
Riccio said the large, but peaceful protests occurring after the video of former Officer Jason Van Dyke shooting teenager Laquan McDonald was released were largely due to those relationships. They clearly dissipated prior to the looting and violence that occurred after Floyd’s death, he said.
Riccio: “We had some credibility with them, and it resonated through the neighborhoods, and we didn’t see any rioting or anything of the nature of when George Floyd was killed.”
Kozlov: “What changed?”
Riccio: “I don’t know what changed. We probably didn’t work on those relationships the way we should. We didn’t maintain them.”
Riccio also believes Supt. Brown’s new policing plan – creating a specialized unit to blanket violent neighborhoods and establish community relationships and trust – could help accomplish that, and reduce shootings and murders – especially those done in retaliation.
“We can take those officers and put them in the area and stop the retaliation, and the back-and-forth that goes on that really drives up the violence and traps people in their homes, so I think that’s going to be a huge success,” Riccio said.
Riccio points to past initiatives involving CPD and community relationships that contributed to a three-year violent crime decrease at the end of last decade. Still, these are tumultuous and often trust-less times.
Kozlov: “What is you message to the rank-and-file – many, who I mentioned, feel vilified; feel they’ve been beaten up; who feel overwhelmed, and who may not want to be part of this group who is going to have boots on the ground in these neighborhoods? What’s your message to them?”
Riccio: “I understand their cautious approach. I totally get that. But I think inside every officer is that desire to do the right thing.”
Supt. Brown wants to have about 200 officer assigned to the new unit this month. It will include officers taking part in prayer circles and food delivery for those who need it.
Riccio officially retires Aug. 1, and is one of several high-ranking department members to leave the department in the past year.
Riccio said of all the superintendents he worked under, he believes Eddie Johnson – who announced his retirement and was then fired under a cloud of controversy last year, was the most effective.