8 Chicago Officers Suspended In Ex-Top Cop Eddie Johnson Drinking-And-Driving Scandal

Officers respond to Drunk Eddie Johnson
Body camera footage shows Chicago police officers responding to calls of a man asleep in his vehicle in the early morning hours of Oct. 17, 2019. The man was the city's top cop Eddie Johnson. A report from Chicago's inspector general Friday details the failures of officers to conduct sobriety tests on their boss and their failure to protect the public when they let him drive home. City of Chicago
Officers respond to Drunk Eddie Johnson
Body camera footage shows Chicago police officers responding to calls of a man asleep in his vehicle in the early morning hours of Oct. 17, 2019. The man was the city's top cop Eddie Johnson. A report from Chicago's inspector general Friday details the failures of officers to conduct sobriety tests on their boss and their failure to protect the public when they let him drive home. City of Chicago

8 Chicago Officers Suspended In Ex-Top Cop Eddie Johnson Drinking-And-Driving Scandal

Seven Chicago police officers have been punished with suspensions in connection with CPD’s handling last year of then-Supt. Eddie Johnson after cops found him asleep at the wheel of his idling department SUV, according to a report Friday from city Inspector General Joseph Ferguson.

An eighth officer was suspended for a week for driving a city vehicle after having “several large” drinks with the top cop, the report says.

The officers punished for their response to the incident include Deering District Cmdr. Don J. Jerome, suspended for 28 days for failing to report misconduct, and a lieutenant suspended for 21 days, despite a Ferguson recommendation that the officer be fired for lying about the incident, according to the report.

“Multiple sworn CPD personnel failed to effectively carry out their duties in compliance with policy in the handling and aftermath” of the incident, the report says.

Ferguson’s report also reveals that Johnson had drunk “the equivalent of approximately 10 alcoholic beverages” that evening.

The investigation did not find that any officers intentionally covered up for the top cop. Johnson had been out drinking with a member of his security detail on Oct. 16 last year before officers found him asleep in the vehicle around 12:30 a.m. the next morning, near his home in the city’s Bridgeport neighborhood.

But the IG’s report does detail a series of lapses that led to accusations the department tried to protect the superintendent after finding him drunk behind the wheel.

Read the report here.

While the CPD members on the scene could not have known that the superintendent had consumed so much alcohol, the report said, “not a single member detected any signs of impairment or pursued a number of routine investigative steps likely to reveal evidence of alcohol impairment.

“By allowing the superintendent to drive home despite concern for his condition, the officers failed to promote CPD’s goal of protecting the public and brought discredit on CPD,” the report said without naming the officers. “Their actions created the impression of giving the superintendent preferential treatment.”

The report said seven officers, including a sergeant, responded to the call involving Johnson, but only one activated a body-worn camera.

The lieutenant, who supervised the initial responding officers, watched that footage and violated CPD policy by recording it on a cell phone, the report said. The lieutenant sent the recording in a text message to Jerome, the commander, but allegedly denied doing so in an interview with Ferguson’s office.

CPD did not follow Ferguson’s recommendation to fire the lieutenant, concluding there was insufficient evidence to prove the lieutenant lied about copying the body-cam footage during the IG interview. The department did find the lieutenant violated other rules and gave the 21-day suspension.

The IG’s probe found that Jerome failed to report the lieutenant’s policy violation.

The commander could not be reached for comment.

The report says that the officers who first responded to the call were both probationary “with only three years of experience between them and with no prior field experience handling a possible DUI.”

A July report from Ferguson’s office said that Johnson had been drinking that night at a downtown restaurant with his driver, later identified as Officer Cynthia Donald, who was assigned to his security detail.

That report said city video shows Johnson dropping her off at CPD headquarters around 10:30 p.m. and allowing her to drive away in her assigned city vehicle.

Ferguson’s office has not named Donald. But Friday’s report said a cop faces a seven-day suspension based on an IG’s finding that the person “consumed several large servings of rum while at a restaurant with the CPD superintendent” and “later drove home” in a city vehicle.

Donald this week filed suit against Johnson and the city, saying the former superintendent repeatedly raped her in his office at CPD headquarters.

Other officers who received suspensions — besides Jerome, Donald and the lieutenant — include the sergeant, two probationary officers and two patrol officers who arrived later. The suspensions range from 1 to 28 days. The longest suspensions went to the lieutenant and the commander.

Ferguson’s office recommended that CPD provide the responding officers with additional training on body-camera use and alcohol impairment detection. The office also recommended that CPD explore pairing junior officers with more senior officers to ensure that calls and investigations are handled competently.

The report said the training should “strengthen understanding and expectation that situations involving possible legal infractions by sworn personnel be met with the same rigor and standard of care as those involving members of the public.”

After the driving incident, Johnson announced on Nov. 7 he would be retiring at the end of the year.

That month, Ferguson’s office reported findings and recommendations about Johnson to Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who announced on Dec. 3 she was firing Johnson and accused him of repeatedly lying to her about the incident.

Now that Ferguson’s office is done with the incident, Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th Ward), who chairs the city’s public safety committee, said it’s “time for the city to move on.”

“We have a new leader,” Taliaferro said, referring to Supt. David Brown. “I believe he’s going to do a fantastic job.”

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

A previous version of this story misstated the number of officers suspended in connection with CPD’s handling of the Johnson stop. The correct number is seven. An eighth officer was suspended for allegedly driving under the influence.