CHICAGO — As the Chicago Police Department’s second-in-command prepares to retire Tuesday, Anthony Riccio is reflecting on a storied career on the force.
The son of a cop who climbed almost all the way to the top, Riccio will leave on August 1 after more than three decades.
“I think the short answer is: it’s time,” Riccio said.
First Deputy Superintendent Anthony Riccio is retiring from his post as the second-highest ranking member of Chicago’s police force.
He began his career 34 years ago, just after the Bears had won the Super Bowl. He jokes that back then, his hair was thicker and his body was thinner.
He jokes if he could go back and give himself advice it’d be to eat less junk food and spend more time at the gym. He grew up in Rogers Park, and attended Mather High School, followed by Eastern Illinois University.
“We didn’t have a lot of money growing up, my dad was a policeman at a time when policing didn’t pay the bills. He had to work three jobs most of his life to support us,” Riccio said.
“When you grow up in Chicago, you kind of inch your way forward and that’s what I did,” Riccio said.
Over the course of three decades, he climbed the ladder – from beat cop to lieutenant to commander of area central, then to the second highest position.
“I got promoted because the people above me thought that I had something to offer,” Riccio said.
He was in charge of the investigation into the murder of Hadiya Pendleton, the innocent 15-year-old high school honors student who had preformed at then-president Obama’s inauguration before she was killed in a senseless gang shooting.
“We put pressure on ourselves to solve that one, it wasn’t pressure from the president or the media, it was a horrific crime and we were determined to find the people responsible for it and bring ‘em to justice,” Riccio said.
He also served as the chief of the Bureau of Organized Crime. Back 34 years ago, he said organized crime looked much different than it does now.
“It was guys in suits who hung out in the back rooms of taverns who plotted prostitution and gambling and things like that; that has evolved over the course of 34 years into street gangs – thugs that are running around these neighborhoods now,” Riccio said.
He was also the detective who arrested Amanda Wallace, the mother who was convicted of the infamous 1993 murder of her own 3-year-old son in which she tied a cord around his neck and kicked over the chair he was standing on.
“You walk in and see something like that, and it just doesn’t compute when you see that it’s so heinous and unbelievable,” Riccio said. “Then again, there you are and you have to talk to this person and do your best – that’s tough to do, you leave with some baggage when you leave.”
Under a federal consent decree, Riccio says the Chicago Police Department is undergoing a transformation of policies and procedures to go a long way from where he started in 1986.
“It’s night and day. When I came out of the Academy, we were trained and indoctrinated to be almost militarized. We went into neighborhoods thinking ‘we’re here. We’re in charge. We’re the occupying force,’” Riccio said. “Now, we’ve evolved into more of guardians.”
Riccio says the police need to rebuild trust with the communities they serve, but he’s firmly against the nationwide movement to defund the police.
“That’s ludicrous, you can’t get rid of the police, we are the reason people can go to the store, or go to school, or go to the park or take a bike ride without us there, everybody becomes prey,” Riccio said. “You need the police, you need more police, not less.”
As he approaches retirement, he has nearly a dozen offers for consulting and security work, but he says he hasn’t decided what he’ll do next.
He leaves the department as a cop who climbed the ladder, and a son of Rogers Park who reflects the city that he served.
“I am Chicago, and Chicago is me,” Riccio said.