by Adam Harrington and Todd Feurer, CBS Chicago web producers
CHICAGO (CBS) — All four Chicago Police superintendents who have served over the past 16 years have seen their tenures end in either scandal or controversy.
In the fall of 2003, Phil Cline took the reins as police superintendent, taking over following the retirement of Supt. Terry Hillard – who had served since 1998. Cline had been first deputy superintendent of the department.
Cline’s term as superintendent went on with little controversy until 2007, when the department became embroiled in a scandal that made worldwide headlines. On Feb. 19, 2007, Officer Anthony Abbate was caught on surveillance video attacking and brutally beating bartender Karolina Obrycka – who was half his size – when she refused to serve him more drinks at Jesse’s Shortstop Inn, 5425 W. Belmont Ave.
In a separate incident at the Jefferson Tap Bar & Grille in the West Loop, which had happened a couple of months before the Abbate incident but made headlines just afterward, six officers were caught on video beating another group of men.
Meanwhile, six officers from the later-disbanded Special Operations Section faced criminal charges in a separate scandal.
Amid worldwide outrage and scorn and complaints that officers were out of control, Cline resigned, and First Deputy Supt. Dana Starks took over temporarily. Then-Mayor Richard M. Daley reached outside the city for Cline’s permanent replacement, and picked Jody Weis – a 23-year veteran of the FBI who had most recently run the Philadelphia Field Office.
Immediately, Weis said he would not tolerate misconduct in the department.
But soon after Weis took over in 2008, he drew sharp criticism from rank-and-file officers, who felt he wasn’t on their side and said morale quickly dropped after he took office. Weis also drew the ire of many officers for wearing a police uniform, even though he was not a sworn officer. Weis later decided to wear a uniform only for police academy graduations, officers’ funerals, and other ceremonial events.
Among Weis’ most unpopular decisions among the rank-and-file was subjecting Officer Bill Cozzi to a new federal prosecution and prison time after the officer had already been convicted and sentenced to probation for beating a man in a wheelchair.
In September 2010, hundreds of rank-and-file officers marched outside of Police Headquarters, 3510 S. Michigan Ave., demanding that Weis be let go.
Weis stepped down on March 1, 2011 as his contract ran out. Mayor Daley had by then announced that he would not be seeking a seventh term as mayor, and Rahm Emanuel had been elected to take his place – and likely would have wanted to bring in his own choice for superintendent even if Daley had kept Weis on board.
Hillard returned as interim superintendent for Daley’s final two months in office. Mayor Emanuel then picked Newark Police Director and NYPD veteran Garry McCarthy as superintendent on a permanent basis.
McCarthy served through Emanuel’s first term and into his second. But McCarthy in turn became embroiled in controversy amid the fatal police shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.
Officer Jason Van Dyke shot and killed McDonald on Oct. 20, 2014. Van Dyke shot McDonald 16 times while the teen walked down South Pulaski Road holding a small folding knife while being pursued by police.
The following April, the City Council approved $5 million settlement with McDonald’s family requiring that video of the shooting remain sealed until investigations were complete. But four months after that, journalist Brandon Smith sued the city to force the release of dashboard cam video showing the McDonald shooting and a judge approved its release.
Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder in the McDonald shooting on Nov. 24, 2015, the same day the dashcam video was released. The video prompted several days of protests in the city.
McCarthy said his hands were tied in the case: “I couldn’t fire [Jason Van Dyke]. I couldn’t put him in a ‘no pay’ status. I couldn’t discipline him. That’s the law.”
But on Dec. 2, 2015, Emanuel fired McCarthy, saying the department needed new leadership. About 100 protesters danced outside Chicago Police headquarters upon that announcement. McCarthy went on to launch a campaign for mayor against Emanuel in 2019 – and continued his campaign after Emanuel announced he wouldn’t run for a third term – but received only 7 percent of the vote.
First Deputy Supt. John Escalante took over following McCarthy’s dismissal on an interim basis, and in March 2016, Emanuel appointed Eddie Johnson as superintendent. Johnson had not been included in the Chicago Police Board’s list of three finalists after a nationwide search and Johnson had not submitted an application, but Emanuel appointed him anyway – saying he did so amid police and community requests.
Murders spiked to 20-year highs in 2016 as Johnson took the reins at CPD, but the superintendent said he was proud that murders, shootings, and other crime steadily declined under his watch.
Johnson stayed on after Mayor Lori Lightfoot won a runoff election and took over as mayor earlier this year. But on Thursday, he announced he would be stepping down at the end of the year.
Johnson’s announcement came as the Chicago Inspector General’s office is investigating into an Oct. 17 incident in which he was found slumped over in his car after he’d been drinking with friends at dinner. However, Johnson has said he’s not worried about the investigation, and claimed it was not a factor in why he’s been thinking of retiring.
Just in the past week, Johnson has also faced criticism from President Donald Trump – after the superintendent skipped the president’s speech at the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference. Johnson had said he would not attend Trump’s speech “because the values of the people of Chicago are more important than anything that he would have to say.”
Johnson’s decision to skip Trump’s speech also drew the ire of the leadership of the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police. The police union’s board of directors issued a vote of no confidence in Johnson to protest his decision not to attend the president’s speech.
Other concerns were also raised during Johnson’s tenure – including a pattern uncovered by the CBS 2 Investigators of string of more than a dozen incidents in which police officers wrongly raided a family’s home, and pointed guns at innocent adults and children, all based on bad information from confidential informants.
Over the last year, CBS 2 has requested more than a dozen interviews with Johnson to address the systemic failures we’ve uncovered. During a November 2018 news conference, CBS 2 Investigator Dave Savini questioned Johnson about wrong raids and the department’s failure to comply with our Freedom of Information Act request for data on how often wrong raids happen. The department has yet to release complete records in response to CBS 2’s FOIA request.
The department has issued a statement saying it “makes every effort to ensure the validity and accuracy of all information that is used to apply for and execute search warrants.” But when CBS 2 requested a sit-down, one-on-one interview with Johnson for the “Unwarranted” documentary, Chief Communications Officer Anthony Guglielmi said Johnson does not have the time, and CBS 2’s ratings aren’t high enough, for him to do an interview.
CBS 2 has uncovered a pattern of police officers raiding wrong homes. Read about it here:
With Johnson now leaving his as the city’s top cop, Lightfoot and the Chicago Police Board will begin the process of finding a permanent replacement. The board is tasked with conducting a search and nominating three finalists for the top job. The mayor could then choose one of those finalists and seek City Council confirmation of her choice, or ask the board to go back to the drawing board.