Former Top Cop Had ‘Several Large Servings Of Rum’ Before He Was Found Asleep At The Wheel, Report Says

Eddie Johnson in car
City of Chicago
Eddie Johnson in car
City of Chicago

Former Top Cop Had ‘Several Large Servings Of Rum’ Before He Was Found Asleep At The Wheel, Report Says

Fired Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson consumed “several large servings of rum” before driving drunk and apparently passing out for nearly two hours in a city-issued car last fall, according to a new report from Chicago’s Office of Inspector General.

But multiple officers failed to conduct a sobriety test and allowed Johnson to drive himself home, the report found.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot fired Johnson last December, weeks before his scheduled retirement, saying he lied to her and the public about the drinking-and-driving incident. The inspector general’s investigation concluded that Johnson lied repeatedly about what caused him to be found asleep behind the wheel of the car about 12:30 a.m. Oct. 17, 2019 — and about his actions following the incident.

The inspector general’s summary, which was released Thursday as part of a quarterly report, said Johnson and a member of his security team were drinking at a downtown restaurant until about 10:30 p.m. Oct. 16, 2019. Then, Johnson drove the subordinate about four miles south to Chicago police headquarters in Bronzeville and “allowed the officer to drive away” in a city vehicle despite having also consumed “several large servings of rum.”

The Chicago Sun-Times reported that Johnson and the security officer, who was the superintendent’s driver, were seen repeatedly kissing at the downtown bar. A police spokesman told WBEZ that Johnson reassigned the subordinate officer following the October incident. That transfer may have violated city policy, which prohibits employment decisions from being made based on an employee’s “submission to or rejection of” a supervisor’s sexual advances.

After dropping off the security officer at police headquarters, according to the report, Johnson then drove about a mile-and-a-half toward his Bridgeport home, but ended up parked at a stop sign for nearly two hours until someone called 911.

Body camera footage released June 29 shows that the officers who responded found Johnson asleep behind the wheel, asked him if he was “good,” and did not perform any sort of field sobriety test.

The officer then cut off his body camera.

According to the report from the inspector general’s office, multiple other officers arrived, and then requested a supervisor. The supervisor got there minutes later, and within “a few seconds” of the supervisor arriving, the lower-ranking officers left the intersection. A few minutes after that an officer “cleared the stop” and coded it as “no police action was needed.”

No one gave Johnson a sobriety test and instead officers let him drive himself home while they followed behind. During that short drive, Johnson first drove away from his house, then turned around and went through a stop sign and made a turn into the wrong lane of traffic, according to the inspector general’s office.

Later, Johnson said the incident was linked to his medication and did not mention he had been drinking. Johnson also said he had ordered an internal investigation, but the inspector general’s office said that was not true.

Johnson refused to be interviewed for the inspector general investigation, according to the report. After he was fired, Johnson issued a statement saying he had a lapse in judgment. But he said he “did not intentionally mislead or deceive the mayor or the people of Chicago.”

The inspector general’s office said they have prepared two other reports on the incident, one focused on the security officer who was drinking with Johnson and the other on the police response. Those reports have been submitted to the Chicago Police Department but are not publicly available.

Chicago police spokeswoman Kellie Bartoli said in a statement that the department is “currently reviewing the Office of Inspector General’s investigation report into personnel that responded to the October 2019 incident involving” Johnson.

The Department will take any necessary disciplinary measures upon their complete review of that report,” Bartoli said.

Patrick Smith is a reporter on WBEZ’s Criminal Justice Desk. Follow him @pksmid. Email him at psmith@wbez.org.