Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson is on his way out. If local reporting is correct, Johnson is likely to announce his retirement by the end of the week. He told reporters that he has been “toying” with the idea of retirement.
Most likely, he sees the writing on the wall. While he may be trying to put a good face on his situation, he finds himself under investigation by the city’s Inspector General Joe Ferguson – an investigation he requested himself, to be fair. Nonetheless, after he was found slumped over in his police vehicle about 12:30 a.m. early one-morning last month, he privately told Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot that he consumed “a couple of drinks with dinner”. Ferguson is investigating that incident.
Initially, Johnson blamed a change in his blood pressure medication. He said he had failed to fill a new prescription and that triggered the incident. He dismissed his driver after the dinner and was driving himself. He was not given a sobriety test and the question of if he was given preferential treatment is a part of the ongoing investigation. Freedom of Information requests has been denied on requests for the bodycam video. Of making up his mind about retirement before the investigation report is complete and released, Johnson said, “I’m not concerned about that. Really, I’m not.”
Johnson also claims he isn’t concerned about staying on the job until April 2020 when he will be fully vested in his superintendent’s pension. This is odd, though, if there is no pressure to retire, right? Why wouldn’t he sick around another five short months if it means being fully-vested in his pension retirement benefits? Who leaves that money on the table unless it isn’t his decision to make?
“The vested part of a pension really has never mattered to me because remember, I didn’t apply for this job. So that part of it doesn’t matter to me. It really doesn’t,” he said.
“What matters to me is seeing CPD trusted by the communities that we serve and to see this crime go down—and we’ve done that. I’m extremely proud of the progress we’ve made. The officers and communities have come together now. I just cannot be more encouraged by what I’ve seen.”
That sounds nice on its face value but something is fishy. It is far more likely that he knows the mayor isn’t pleased. He may have heard through the grapevine the reports that Mayor Lori Lightfoot has already found his replacement.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot decided to replace Johnson shortly after police officers on Oct. 17 found him asleep in his car, sources say. Johnson later told the mayor he had consumed some alcohol that evening.
Sources say the leading candidate to replace Johnson on an interim basis is former Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck, who retired last year. Beck is known as an architect of key reforms in that city’s police department.
Johnson is correct – he didn’t actively seek the job he currently occupies. And his history isn’t warm and fuzzy with the mayor. Former Mayor Rahm Emanuel hand-picked Johnson.
Nearly four years ago, an end-run around the Police Board’s nationwide search for a replacement for fired Police Supt. Garry McCarthy allowed Emanuel to pluck Johnson out of obscurity, even though Johnson didn’t seek the job. Johnson at the time was the department’s chief of patrol.
Emanuel pulled it off by rejecting all three finalists chosen by the Police Board after a first nationwide search and by persuading the City Council to cancel the charade of a second nationwide search required by law.
At the time, the Police Board president was Lightfoot.
Now, the shoe is on the other foot; Lightfoot is the mayor who may choose a new superintendent.
Johnson has also had a tempestuous relationship with the Chicago FOP. Johnson took heat over his part in the Laquan McDonald police-involved shooting. Recently, the FOP delivered a vote of no confidence in Johnson when he boycotted President Trump’s speech to the International Association of Chiefs of Police meeting in Chicago.
Superintendent Johnson said that a recent vacation with his family brought home the fact that his job requires he miss a lot of family time. That hardly makes him unique, though, as many jobs require time spent away from family.
“I have given 31 years now to this city, and almost four as superintendent,” Johnson said Monday, according to the Chicago Tribune. “You know, but I recognize also that at some point it’s time to create another chapter in your life. And I will tell you all this: When my family and I went to London for the Bears game, that’s the first vacation like that that I’ve had since I became superintendent.”
He added: “And I looked at my family and it made me realize how much of a sacrifice you make for your family when you take on positions like this.”
Johnson’s stepping down will be the second high-profile police retirement this week. New York City Police Commissioner James O’Neill announced on Monday he is taking a job in the private sector after serving three years in his current position.