CHICAGO (CBS) — On his first full day as interim Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson hit the ground running.
Johnson sat down with CBS 2’s Derrick Blakley to talk about his plan for reducing crime, police misconduct and the surprise call from City Hall that put him in charge.
Johnson said he didn’t see the call from the mayor coming.
“It was a bit overwhelming,” he said.
On his very first day in a job he never sought, Eddie Johnson told reporters he’s never witnessed police wrongdoing first hand, not once in 27 years on the job.
“I’ve actually never encountered police misconduct, cause you got to understand, officers that commit misconduct don’t do it in front of people that they think are going to hold them accountable for it,” Johnson said. “Now that I’m sitting in this chair, if I come across it, I will deal with it accordingly.”
It was the unrest after the Laquan McDonald shooting that eroded community confidence, something Johnson says must be rebuilt.
“I think the relationship is fractured but I also thing we can regain their trust and that’s what I’m aiming to do,” Johnson said.
But Johnson said he must also re-energize street cops, put on the defensive by weeks of controversy.
“The officers right now are confused a little bit,” he said. “They’re hurt. They went from being right about everything to now being under enormous scrutiny, and not just in Chicago, that’s across the country.”
He says it’s officers’ duty to tell the truth even when things go wrong.
“I’m gonna put some things in place to ensure they do feel they can admit honest mistakes,” Johnson said. “One thing I’ve learned over the years is a cover-up is always, always worse than an incident, always. So if they do make a mistake, own it, fix it.”
Johnson said it’s his job to root out the so-called “code of silence” if it is there but draws a sharp distinction between intentional misconduct and honest mistakes.
“It’s when they make honest mistakes that they need me,” he said. “So if they make honest mistakes, we’ll get them training and get them on the back on the right track… but all officers out there, if they see misconduct, they’re obligated to report it.”
Johnson said he’ll run the department independent of City Hall, listening for community input every step of the way.
“The politics of things going on in Chicago, I don’t do that,” he said. “The one thing I do know how to do is be a cop and I know how to listen to people and that’s what we need right now.”
Meantime, Johnson intends to go citywide to do what he did as a district commander, listen to citizens and community leaders to get their ideas and input for fighting crime. The cops, he says, can’t win this battle this alone.