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A New Interim Police Chief, But A Long Way To Go

The Chicago Police Department is now in the hands of veteran officer Eddie Johnson after Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that he was throwing out the three finalists chosen by the police board, and appointing Johnson the interim superintendent.

WBEZ’s Lauren Chooljian was at Police Headquarters when Emanuel made the formal announcement and brought us these highlights:

Emanuel said he didn’t go with any of the original finalists because he was listening to what police officers and community members were telling him.

“We want somebody that knows Chicago and that knows the police department,” he said. “Somebody that can actually restore what I would say is the morale for the police department.”

In the mayor’s mind, there was no better fit than Johnson. And it seems like many people agree- most everyone only has good things to say about him.

Johnson didn’t actually apply for the job. He said he’d been supporting John Escalante.

As interim police superintendent, Johnson will have to strike a balance between being there for the rank and file of City Hall and being there for the community. That won’t be easy.

At the press conference, Johnson kept coming back to the word “trust.” He said while most people don’t know how hard it is to be a police officer, it’s important the department own up to police misconduct as not to take away from the good police work being done.

Emanuel wouldn’t say Johnson will be chosen as the permanent superintendent.

Johnson is now the interim police chief, but by city code, the police board has to start the process of vetting candidates all over again. Johnson said he will apply and it’s expected he’ll be among the board’s next three finalists. Emanuel could then choose him, but it’s entirely possible somebody new rises up during the second round of applications.

Lauren Chooljian covers city politics for WBEZ. Follow her @laurenchooljian.

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