Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson To Announce Retirement

Eddie Johnson
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson speaks at Navy Pier on July 9, 2019. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ
Eddie Johnson
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson speaks at Navy Pier on July 9, 2019. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ

Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson To Announce Retirement

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Updated 9:33 a.m. on Nov. 7, 2019

Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson will announce he’s retiring as the city’s top cop.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot decided to replace Johnson shortly after police officers on Oct. 17 found him asleep in his car, sources say. Johnson later told the mayor he had consumed some alcohol that evening.

Sources say the leading candidate to replace Johnson on an interim basis is former Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck, who retired last year. Beck is known as an architect of key reforms in that city’s police department.

Charlie Beck
Former Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck in February 2017. Nick Ut / Associated Press

On Monday, Johnson told reporters at City Hall he was contemplating retirement but insisted he was “not concerned” about an investigation by Inspector General Joe Ferguson’s office into the driving incident.

Johnson pointed to health troubles during his nearly four years as top cop.

“I have given 31 years now to this city and almost four as superintendent, but I recognize also that, at some point, it’s time to create a different chapter in your life,” Johnson said.

Johnson said a recent trip to London to see a Bears game was his first vacation since he became superintendent.

“I looked at my family and it made me realize how much of a sacrifice you make for your family when you take on positions like this,” Johnson said, adding he had been “toying” with retirement for awhile.

The driving incident followed months of speculation that Lightfoot might dump Johnson as superintendent.

The inspector general’s office is also investigating why the responding officers let him drive home without a field sobriety test.

Then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel appointed Johnson superintendent in March 2016. The Police Department faced an historic gun violence surge and a crisis in its community relations following the city’s court-ordered release of a dashcam video showing teenager Laquan McDonald’s fatal shooting by Officer Jason Van Dyke.

Nearly four years later, Chicago’s murder rate still stands out among the nation’s largest cities. But homicides and shootings have both dropped to roughly their pre-2016 levels.

Speaking to aldermen at CPD’s annual budget hearing Monday, Johnson credited those drops to police efforts he has led. Those include expanding the number of sworn officers by nearly 1,300 and installing new high-tech gear such as the gunshot-detection sensors that now blanket the city’s most violent police districts. Johnson also talked up the department’s community outreach.

Johnson did acknowledge that Chicago neighborhoods battered by gun violence need more than policing.

“We certainly need to treat [the violence] like a public-health crisis,” he said.

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