CHICAGO (CBS) — Eddie Johnson did not ask to be Chicago Police superintendent when he was appointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel nearly four years ago.
Emanuel had rejected three finalists recommended by the Police Board, which was then headed by now-Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
Johnson stayed on after Lightfoot took Emanuel’s place as mayor this past spring. And as CBS 2’s Jim Williams reported Monday, Lightfoot praised Johnson – until now.
Johnson’s rise was called inspirational – from his early years at the Cabrini-Green housing project to top cop in his hometown.
“It’s an honor to serve you,” Johnson said upon being appointed in March 2016. “I’m one of you.”
Johnson emphasized that he was a Chicagoan, born and raised. He replaced Garry McCarthy, a native New Yorker fired by Mayor Rahm Emanuel amid accusations the Police Department covered up the fatal shooting of teenager Laquan McDonald.
A Justice Department investigation found systemic abuses of minorities and called for sweeping changes.
“We need to do better, and you have my commitment that we will do better,” Johnson said in January 2017.
Despite Johnson not having submitted an application and not having been included in the list of finalists after a nationwide search, Emanuel appointed him anyway – saying he did so amid police and community requests.
Early in Johnson’s tenure, Chicago had its highest number of murders in 20 years. The murder rate went down considerably, but other problems persisted – including police raids on the wrong homes – a pattern that was uncovered by CBS 2.
When Johnson said he would not attend President Donald Trump’s speech to police chiefs in Chicago because he “disagreed with the president’s values,” Mr. Trump ripped Johnson.
“Frankly, those values to me are a disgrace,” President Trump said at the October event.
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.”
The Chicago Fraternal Order of Police board of directors issued a vote of no confidence in Johnson to protest his decision not to attend the president’s speech.
But Mayor Lightfoot defended the superintendent, and praised his leadership when Johnson announced he would retire.
It was praise that Lightfoot regretted Monday after learning, she said, that Johnson had lied.
“I certainly would not have participated in a celebratory press conference to announce his retirement,” Lightfoot said.
Lightfoot fired Johnson on Monday after reviewing an inspector general’s investigation into Johnson being found passed out behind the wheel of his car in October.
“It has become clear that Mr. Johnson engaged in a series of actions that are intolerable for any leader in a position of trust,” she said Monday morning at City Hall. “The finding of the inspector general’s report regarding Mr. Johnson, which I recently reviewed, makes clear that Eddie Johnson engaged in conduct that is not only unbecoming, but demonstrated a series of ethical lapses and flawed decision-making that is inconsistent with having the privilege of leading the Chicago Police Department.”
The mayor said the inspector general’s report and video evidence from the investigation make it clear Johnson lied about the circumstances of the incident. But she did not specify how he lied.
Street cop, district commander, chief of patrol, superintendent. For Johnson, a 30-year career that saw him rise to the top of the nation’s second largest police department now comes to a bitter end.