Chicago police Superintendent Garry McCarthy stressed the need for officers to “treat people fairly” in a speech Wednesday to leaders of the business and civic community.

The city’s top cop said that the department has won national recognition for training its officers on how to treat citizens with respect.

“We have to have internal legitimacy if we’re going to treat people fairly,” McCarthy told some 200 people at the City Club of Chicago luncheon. “...It has to do with the perception that the individuals will have, and a bad encounter will be a lifelong lasting event in somebody’s mind.”

The remarks came a week after one of McCarthy’s favorite commanders, Glenn Evans, was charged criminally for allegedly placing the barrel of his gun in a suspect's mouth.

After his speech, McCarthy dodged questions from a throng of reporters who followed him outside to his SUV. When a reporter asked him if his vision of “police legitimacy” was undermined by his repeated defense of Evans, McCarthy glared at the reporter and sternly replied, “Come on.”

Also Wednesday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel tried to deflect reporters’ questions about Evans during an unrelated news conference. The mayor said McCarthy had already answered their questions about Evans, including why he left the commander in his post despite knowing he was being investigated.

“…Here’s what I recommend: He’s speaking at the City Club. You can go there and ask him,” the mayor said at one point in response to a question about Evans.

During his speech, McCarthy touted his administration’s crime-fighting strategies, saying that homicides have declined for eight consecutive quarters. He also said homicides, rapes, robberies and property crimes have dropped sharply from levels 20 years ago. He cited a massive 76 percent drop in motor vehicle thefts from the mid-1990s, for instance.

“Anybody here in the insurance industry? Yeah, I didn’t think you’d raise your hand. We should talk about why our insurance rates are so high, shouldn’t we?” he said after mentioning the auto thefts statistics, drawing laughter from the crowd.

Absent from McCarthy’s remarks was any mention about the increase in shootings so far this year compared with 2013. Through August, the number of shooting victims rose 6 percent, while the number of shooting incidents increased by 5 percent.

The accuracy of the crime statistics under McCarthy’s leadership were called into question earlier this year in stories in the media and by the city’s top watchdog.

McCarthy also highlighted the department’s efforts in preventing retaliatory violence and “eliminating” illegal drug markets.

The department has zeroed in on West Side drug markets, a longtime catalyst for the gang violence and high rate of homicides and shootings in that part of the city, he said.

“Law enforcement will never fix the narcotics problem in this country. Nor do I think we should try,” McCarthy said. “But what we can do is we can use narcotics enforcement to reduce crime and improve quality of life for the citizens of the city of Chicago that we serve.”

Tribune reporter Bill Ruthhart contributed

jgorner@tribune.com