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Morning Shift

CPD Superintendent Eddie Johnson Talks Violence Prevention

Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start to summer. Historically, the weekend has been one of Chicago’s most violent of the year.

The Chicago Police Department is preparing for the weekend by putting hundreds of additional officers on the streets.

“What we’ve done is essentially added 1,000 more police officers to patrol Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday,” Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said on Morning Shift Friday.

“You’ll see a lot of uniform visibility out there this weekend,” he added.

During an interview on Morning Shift, Johnson spoke with host Jenn White about the department’s overall reform efforts. Asked how CPD would pay for those efforts — including the citywide expansion of new technology and the hiring of nearly 1,000 new officers that was announced by Mayor Rahm Emanuel last year — Johnson pointed to the possibility of public-private partnerships.

“We have philanthropy in Chicago that I’m sure would assist us in this endeavor, and also the businesses here,” Johnson said. “So there’s a lot of money in Chicago and, if we have to, we’ll just have to try to tap into it.”

Below are more highlights from Johnson and White’s conversation. 

Some officers may be armed with ‘heavy weapons’ this weekend

Jenn White: Beyond the additional officers, are you taking any additional steps?

Superintendent Eddie Johnson: Well, we have our — given the incident that happened over in Manchester — we’ve activated our specialized units. So you will see some additional heavy weapons — people out there — but there will be a lot out there that you don’t see also. 

Comparing last year’s strategy

White: Last Memorial Day weekend, 71 people were shot, six were killed. But you ramped up efforts on that weekend, too. Are you adapting your strategy any more this year from what you learned last summer?

Johnson: Yeah, you know we always — look, the one thing that we do well here is we analyze our crime picture daily and pretty much hour-to-hour. So when we do that, we make real-time deployment adjustments as the crime pops up in different areas of the city. So as far as the overall plan, the additional officers is what we really are doing to try to combat some of this violence. 

The department’s new use-of-force policy

Johnson: The big changes to it is that now we’re highlighting de-escalation and the sanctity of life, whereas we had those things in our policy before but they weren’t at the forefront. So now the officer has the autonomy to keep assessing the situation and de-escalate it as they can. Those are the two major changes.

Holding officers accountable 

Johnson: Accountability is high on the list. I’ve said from day one, accountability starts with me on down to the last probationary police officer. So in addition, in this particular policy, if an officer is with a partner and they see them violating this policy, that person is now obligated to first stop the force that’s being used and then report that it was done inappropriately. So we’ve built some accountability in there, and I think that’s important to have that just so that we can ensure that we treat people respectfully and fairly. 

White: But it sounds like that requires a change in culture. That requires officers to be willing to step across that “blue line” that we’ve heard described so many times. How do you make sure that happens?

Johnson: Well, accountability. I think that — and I’ll tell you this, too, Jenn — we have to ensure that we give our officers the best training to put them in the best possible positions to be able to make the right decisions. 

These decisions are not easy. Being the police is not easy, especially in the climate we have out here now. So my job is to ensure that we give them the best training that we can so that when we come across these situations, they can make the correct decisions. 

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity. Click the “play” button above to hear the entire segment.

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