CHICAGO (CBS) — While stopping short of accusing any officers of actively covering up for former Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson after he was found asleep at the wheel of his vehicle one year ago, the city’s inspector general found several officers failed to follow department policy in their handling of the incident.
In all, eight officers were given varying suspensions for their failures that night, including Johnson’s personal driver, who was suspended for driving under the influence herself.
Specifically, the report from Inspector General Joseph Ferguson’s office notes only one officer who responded to the scene on the night of Oct. 16, 2019, activated their body-worn camera. All of the officers at the scene failed to ask where Johnson had been or if he’d been drinking, and allowed him to drive home despite signs he was not fit to drive, and despite expressing concerns about his condition.
For the first time, the report revealed that Johnson “consumed the equivalent of approximately 10 alcoholic beverages,” and yet not a single officer who responded to the scene when he was found asleep at the wheel detected ay sings of impairment, or took any proper steps to determine if he was fit to drive.
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The report also found Johnson’s personal driver, who had been out drinking with him that night, drove herself home while intoxicated.
While the report does not identify the officer by name, Officer Cynthia Donald has confirmed she was the one out with Johnson that night. Donald has filed lawsuit against Johnson, accusing him of years of sexual assault and sexual harassment.
The OIG investigation determined Donald had several large drinks of rum while at the restaurant with Johnson. An earlier report from Ferguson’s office revealed Johnson and Donald then got into the superintendent’s vehicle, and Johnson dropped Donald off at Police Headquarters.
Friday’s report said Donald then drove home in her city vehicle. She was given a 7-day suspension for driving under the influence.
The inspector general also found the two probationary patrol officers who first responded to the scene when Johnson was found asleep at the wheel of his city vehicle at 34th and Aberdeen, just blocks from his home, failed to conduct a competent investigation by gathering evidence to determine if he was fit to drive.
The report notes body camera video shows Johnson had his window rolled down about two inches, but the officers did not ask where he was coming from, or if he had been drinking, “questions which would have been appropriate in a situation involving a call of an individual slumped over the wheel who is suspected to be intoxicated.”
CPD is suspending the two probationary officers for one day each.
The inspector general also faulted two additional responding officers for allowing Johnson to drive his vehicle home, knowing he was unfit to drive.
“Although one of the officers claimed that the superintendent looked normal, the officers’ actions suggest otherwise in that they decided to follow the superintendent’s vehicle to his home, apparently out of concern that he would not get home safely,” the report states. “By allowing the superintendent to drive home despite concern for his condition, the officers failed to promote CPD’s goal of protecting the public and brought discredit on CPD, specifically, because their actions created the impression of giving the superintendent preferential treatment.”
Those two officers will be suspended for seven days each.
A CPD sergeant who responded to the scene will be suspended for 14 days for allowing Johnson to drive home while he was unfit to drive. In an interview with the inspector general, the sergeant expressed concerns about the superintendent’s condition, given his medical history, and because he started driving in the wrong direction. However, the sergeant allowed Johnson to keep driving.
“In doing so, the sergeant was incompetent in the performance of their duties and brought discredit on CPD,” the report states.
A lieutenant who was supervising the first two officers to respond to the scene will be suspended for 21 days for recording their body camera footage on cell phone and sending it to the district commander, in violation of CPD policy. The report called it “an unauthorized, unsecure, and non-authenticated copy of body-work camera footage.” The lieutenant later lied to investigators about it, and denied having sent any follow-up communication to the district commander.
The inspector general’s office recommended CPD fire the lieutenant and place the lieutenant on the city’s do not hire list, but Supt. David Brown instead decided to suspend the lieutenant for 21 days, “concluding that there was insufficient evidence to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the lieutenant willfully failed to disclose making a copy of the body-worn camera footage during their initial interview.”
Deering District Commander Don Jerome himself will be suspended 28 days for failing to report the lieutenant’s policy violation.
A Chicago Police Department spokesperson said all of the officers have been notified of their suspensions, and once they are given the formal paperwork, they will have 10 days to notify the department whether they accept their suspensions or will file a grievance.
In addition to its findings against the individual officers, the inspector general faulted CPD for allowing two probationary officers to be partnered together, with no more than three years of combined experience between them, and no prior experience handling a DUI. Ferguson’s office recommended the department provide them additional training, and review officer assignments to explore pairing junior officers with more senior officers.
“In response, the Department stated that it would provide OIG’s recommendations to the CPD Education and Training Division for review and possible inclusion in future programming. CPD further stated it would consider assigning more senior officers with younger members in the future,” the report stated.
Johnson himself initially blamed the incident on a blood-pressure medication mix-up that had left him feeling faint after going out with friends for dinner. However, he later admitted to the mayor he had been drinking that night.
The superintendent later announced plans to retire, but Lightfoot then fired him and accused him of lying to her about the events of that night.