Interim Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson To Soon Lose “Interim” From His Title | WBEZ
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Interim Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson To Soon Lose “Interim” From His Title

A committee of Chicago aldermen warmly welcomed Interim Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson to City Hall Thursday and approved a one-time rule change that would allow the mayor to give Johnson the job full time.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel promoted Johnson, a 27-year veteran of the police force, after throwing out the finalists hand picked by the police board. Normal city protocol is that candidates apply to the police board, the board then hands three finalists over to the mayor, and he selects one from the pile. Or, he rejects them, and the process starts all over again. Instead Emanuel rejected the board’s recommendations and named someone who was not in the running.

On Tuesday aldermen voted to allow a one-time change to the city code so the mayor could appoint Johnson to Superintendent without the police board’s help. Arguments from aldermen over the public safety “crisis” that the city faces won out over concerns by a handful of others that allowing the mayor to circumvent the police board sets a dangerous precedent and doesn’t seem transparent.

“I don’t care about no board, I don’t care what people think, half those people who think stuff, they not dodging bullets like we have to in our ward,” said Ald. Burnett (27). “We don’t need to be playing this political, popular, process, liberal, all this garbage is BS when it comes to people losing their lives.”

The lone no vote against the rule change came from Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson (11). Thompson said he thought “the process about which we’re going about this is flawed.”

“There’s no reason to have one criteria for one individual and not have it open and transparent and fair for everybody else. I think in this day and age in the city of Chicago, [with] what we’re going through right now, I think to be open and transparent and clear, and the public knows what the process is, is the right thing to do,” he said.

But that was the extent of the heated debate during the nearly four-hour committee meeting. Once aldermen signed on to the amendment, they had mostly friendly questions for the interim superintendent. Many of them congratulated him or welcomed him warmly. Ald. Leslie Hairston (5) said her constituents felt there was a new “aura” over the department now that Johnson is at the helm. Ald. Danny Solis (25) invited Johnson to a parade in his ward, and suggested that officers should spend 20 minutes or so reading books to CPS children.

Many aldermen also expressed concerns about the use of overtime and adequate staffing at the police department. Supt. Johnson told aldermen that “everything is on the table” and he’d be assessing those concerns during his time at the department.

The change still needs to be approved by the full City Council which meets at 10 a.m. Wednesday.

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