Written by Pat Droney
CHICAGO, Ill. – He’s been in the news for publicly defying the president, he was caught sleeping behind the wheel of his car after ‘having a couple’ and now, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson plans to announce his retirement, three years after his appointment.
Johnson, who was sworn into the position by former Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, has become something of a lightning rod over the past several weeks, including a high-profile spat with President Trump and his police department.
Another issue that is hanging over Johnson’s head is an incident where he was found sleeping in his car near his home, according to the Chicago Tribune. Further clouding the issue is Johnson’s apparent flip-flop on the cause of his sleeping. The same Tribune article says that while Johnson initially attributed the incident to fatigue from high blood pressure, he later admitted to Mayor Lori Lightfoot that he had a “couple of drinks” at dinner earlier in the evening.
Johnson indicated that he had his eyes opened about the decision after he traveled to London to watch a football game between the Chicago Bears and Oakland Raiders.
“I realized how much of a sacrifice you make for your family when you take on positions like this,” he said.
Johnson made headlines last month when the IACP (International Association of Chiefs of Police) held their national conference in Chicago. Johnson boycotted the meeting due to the presence of President Trump. And President Trump, true to his trademark “pull no punches” style, went after Johnson.
“He’s not doing his job. Last year, 565 people were murdered in Chicago,” Trump said. “Since Eddie Johnson has been police chief, more than 1,500 people have been murdered in Chicago, and 13,067 people have been shot,” he continued.
Trump was clearly speaking to a friendly audience and he has been a serious supporter of the police.
NEW: Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson will announce his retirement on Thursday, officials say, just 3 weeks after he was found asleep behind the wheel of his car. https://t.co/oUg94Ik6G7 (corrects: weeks)
— NBC News (@NBCNews) November 7, 2019
Johnson decided to skip the president’s visit, even though thousands of his police colleagues would be in attendance. Johnson cited Trump’s “racial insults and hatred” as among his reasons for bypassing the event.
Johnson’s decision caused Chicago’s police union’s executive board to issue a no confidence vote in him, which he dismissed.
“I understand and respect that the Lodge is upset about the decision to not stand with the president. As police officers it is our job to be voices for the voiceless and ambassadors to the communities we serve,” he said. “I can’t in good conscience stand by while racial insults and hatred are cast from the Oval Office or Chicago is held hostage because of our view on New Americans.”
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Johnson appeared to be referring to the administration’s policies on so-called “sanctuary cities”, where city leaders refuse to cooperate with federal immigration laws, and in fact some actually actively hinder such cooperation. Chicago is one such city.
Early last week, Johnson appeared to somewhat back off his criticism of Trump, stating,“…if he’s truly ready to roll up his sleeves to partner with us, so are we.” However he then followed up with a veiled shot at President Trump.
“Today the same police officers the president criticized for their inability to protect this city spent all day protecting him,” clearly missing the president’s point that as the leader of the Chicago Police, the buck stops with him.
As far as Johnson’s pending retirement goes, there is no definite timeline for his departure, although sources say it would likely be announced this week and an interim replacement could be named by the end of the month.
As is typical in high profile law enforcement jobs in major cities, expect this to be a free for all as various interests all weigh in. For the interim position, both internal and external candidates are being touted for the position.
No way Chicago Police Supt Eddie Johnson could survive release of video of him passed out in his car. He’s out. Replacing Johnson & the politics of violence. My column @chicagotribune https://t.co/D8pvujcdLQ
— John Kass (@John_Kass) November 6, 2019
Chicago city law requires that the Chicago Police Board is mandated to conduct a nationwide search. From there, three candidates will be forwarded to the mayor for final approval. However that does not mean that the mayor must abide by those choices.
In the case of Johnson, former mayor Rahm Emmanuel disregarded the choice of the Police Board and named Johnson. Ironically, current mayor Lori Lightfoot was the Board chairman whom Emmanuel over-rode.
Current chairman of the City Council’s Public Safety Committee Chris Taliaferro indicated a preference that both the interim and permanent superintendent comes from within the ranks of the Chicago PD.
As is common in cities such as Chicago, it isn’t always necessarily the most qualified candidate who is selected for the position. Various special interest groups typically want to weigh in and choose not on qualifications, but rather demographics.
Aldermen have indicated that they are looking for someone to improve police-community relations. However, whoever is selected will also have the daunting task of negotiating with the local Fraternal Order of Police lodge, which represents Chicago’s finest. Among the sticking points will be a focus on implementing new accountability standards for the department.
Written by Pat Droney
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