Federal Prosecutors Seek 2 Years In Prison For Ex-Chicago Police Commander Kenneth Johnson | WBEZ
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Federal Prosecutors Seek 2 Years In Prison For Chicago Police Commander Caught Stealing

Updated at 5:24 p.m.

A former Chicago police commander who was caught pilfering more than than $360,000 in Social Security payments should be imprisoned for 18 to 24 months, federal prosecutors say in a memo filed Tuesday evening ahead of sentencing next month.

Kenneth A. Johnson, who led the Englewood patrol district for two years ending with his 2018 retirement, pleaded guilty this year to collecting the payments — intended for his mother — for more than two decades after her death.

“For over 23 of the 32 years that Johnson was employed by the Chicago Police Department to serve the public and enforce the law, Johnson was committing a federal crime every single month,” the memo says. “Johnson betrayed the public trust and stole from a program designed to assist the most vulnerable members of our community.”

Johnson held a joint bank account with his mother in which she received monthly electronic Social Security deposits, according to his plea agreement, signed in May. He failed to notify the government of her May 16, 1994, death at age 72 and instead collected the deposits and used them for his own benefit, the agreement says.

The thefts totaled $363,064 and continued until November 2017, when the Social Security Administration finally looked into whether his mother was still alive, according to Tuesday’s memo. “Johnson withdrew all but 59 cents of the Social Security funds that were deposited into the account during this period.”

The withdrawals included $203 taken out in April 2017 through an ATM located at the Englewood station, according to a bank record attached to the memo.

“Withdrawing crime proceeds at the police station he oversaw as the district commander reflects a troubling lack of respect for the law and a cavalier attitude about the nature and seriousness of his criminal conduct,” the memo says.

If not for the federal probe, the memo adds, the commander “simply would have continued stealing.”

Asked for comment about the memo, Johnson’s attorney Michael F. Clancy emailed a statement: “Sentencing involves a totality of the circumstances including the good a man has done in his life and Mr. Johnson should be given every consideration given the miraculous work he did as a police officer.”

Johnson, who pleaded guilty to one felony count of theft of government funds, will be ordered to repay the $363,064, the plea agreement says.

Johnson became a Chicago officer in 1986 and took over as Englewood commander in 2016.

Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson repeatedly lauded the commander for reductions in homicides and shootings in the district.

Commander Johnson retired in August 2018. CPD that month listed his annual salary as $162,684.

Three months later, the U.S. attorney’s office charged him with the theft.

A written statement from Superintendent Johnson at the time said he was “shocked and very disappointed.”

“I knew Commander Johnson well from his efforts to reduce violence in Englewood but, if proven, these allegations erode the public’s trust and tarnish his service to Chicago,” the superintendent said in the statement.

Superintendent Johnson last year promoted Kenneth Johnson’s twin brother, Kevin Johnson, to deputy chief of the Education and Training Academy.

U.S. District Judge Manish Shah has set the sentencing for Dec. 3.

Chip Mitchell reports out of WBEZ’s West Side studio about policing. Follow him at @ChipMitchell1.

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