Mayor Says She’ll Likely Release Investigation Materials Behind Top Cop’s Dismissal

Eddie Johnson
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson at a Nov. 7 event announces his planned retirement. Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Wednesday she is likely to release a report from the investigation that led her to fire him just weeks before he was due to step down. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ
Eddie Johnson
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson at a Nov. 7 event announces his planned retirement. Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Wednesday she is likely to release a report from the investigation that led her to fire him just weeks before he was due to step down. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ

Mayor Says She’ll Likely Release Investigation Materials Behind Top Cop’s Dismissal

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Wednesday she is likely to release a report from the investigation that led to former Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson’s firing — but not until that probe is complete.

Inspector General Joe Ferguson’s office is investigating why Johnson was asleep in his car after a night of drinking in October — and how the police department handled the situation.

Releasing the investigation would be a change from the past, when a city ordinance kept Ferguson’s investigations confidential. This past summer Lightfoot pushed a change to the ordinance, allowing her to release IG investigation reports and evidence under certain circumstances.

“Obviously this is an incident that qualifies under the statute but we’re not going to do anything until we get the word from the IG that the investigation itself is complete,” Lightfoot told public radio station WCBU during a visit to Peoria, Illinois.

On Monday, Lightfoot said investigation “materials” and “findings” she had received from Ferguson’s office prompted her dismissal of Johnson that morning.

She accused him of conduct unbecoming, ethical lapses and flawed decision-making. She also said he had lied to her and the public about the incident.

But, as Lightfoot condemned Johnson, she made no promises that city residents would ever get to see the IG’s material, saying only that it “may become public” at “some point in time.”

On Wednesday, the mayor seemed to say releasing the material was a matter of time.

“The investigation of Eddie Johnson wasn’t just about him,” Lightfoot said on the Peoria visit. “It involved the conduct of other people. And that investigation is ongoing so we’re not going to do anything that compromises that work.”

Natalie Kuriata, a spokeswoman for the IG’s office, said Wednesday she could not provide a solid timeframe for the investigation’s completion.

“It will probably be sometime early next year but something could change,” she said.

The ordinance change pushed by Lightfoot and passed by the City Council in September authorizes the city’s corporation counsel “in his sole discretion” to release “reports containing sustained findings regarding conduct that either is associated with a death or is, or may be, a felony as defined in the Illinois Criminal Code and is of a compelling public interest.”

Lightfoot’s office said the ordinance was drafted to allow release of records from the 2016 probe by Ferguson’s office that led him to recommend dismissal of 11 police officers because of their handling of teenager Laquan McDonald’s shooting by Police Officer Jason Van Dyke. The city released those records in October.

Johnson, dismissed just weeks before his scheduled retirement, issued a statement Tuesday that admitted “a poor decision” and “a lapse of judgement” but added that he “did not intentionally mislead or deceive the mayor or the people of Chicago.”

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