One day after Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot fired him, former top cop Eddie Johnson admitted a “lapse of judgement” the October night when he was found asleep in his vehicle after consuming alcohol but denied lying to her or the public.
Johnson, dismissed just weeks before his scheduled retirement, issued a statement Tuesday that says he “respects yesterday’s decision” to boot him after more than three decades with the Police Department.
“I acknowledge that I made a poor decision and had a lapse of judgement,” Johnson said in the statement, not specifying the decision to which he was referring.
The statement left many questions unanswered and, while the tone was apologetic, he never apologized.
“I did not intentionally mislead or deceive the mayor or the people of Chicago,” he said.
Lightfoot announced Johnson’s dismissal Monday ahead of his planned Jan. 1 retirement, saying there was evidence he had lied to her and the public about the Oct. 17 incident.
Lightfoot said she could not provide details about that evidence, saying comments could taint an investigation by Chicago Inspector General Joe Ferguson’s office.
“What he portrayed to me and what he portrayed to the public was fundamentally different than what the facts show,” Lightfoot said.
“The old Chicago way must give way to the new reality,” Lightfoot said. “Ethical leadership, integrity, accountability, legitimacy and, yes, honesty, must be the hallmarks of city government.”
On Tuesday morning, former Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck made his first public appearance as Johnson’s interim successor and stood behind Lightfoot’s decision to can him.
“I’m still the former superintendent’s friend, but all of us have to be accountable,” Beck said during a news conference at police headquarters. “I know that. He knows that. And, now, if anyone at CPD thought that wasn’t true, they know it too.”
Johnson’s fate had been a hot topic at City Hall and within law-enforcement circles since former Mayor Rahm Emanuel dropped his reelection bid more than a year ago.
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, a leading candidate to replace Emanuel, vowed to fire Johnson if she won the race.
But Lightfoot, who defeated Preckwinkle and took office in May, said she would keep Johnson as top cop through summer — the annual peak of Chicago gun violence. She said his future from there would be the subject of a “conversation.”
City Hall sources say Johnson’s fate was sealed after the driving incident, in which the officers found him asleep in the vehicle at 12:30 a.m.
On the job later that day, Johnson told reporters it was caused by a mix-up involving his blood-pressure medication.
But Lightfoot later said he had told her he had had drinks before getting behind the wheel.
That led to an announcement weeks later that Johnson would be retiring.
In his statement Tuesday, Johnson took credit for a decline in the city’s violent crime and for steps toward complying with a court-mandated police reform agreement.
“Reputations are not built in a day and not damaged in a day either,” Johnson said in the statement.
Read the full statement here: