Mayor expected to name Eddie Johnson new interim superintendent Monday

ByMichelle Gallardo, John Garcia, and Laura Thoren WLS logo
Monday, March 28, 2016
Mayor rejects police board's picks for next top cop
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Mayor Rahm Emanuel is expected to name CPD veteran Eddie Johnson as interim superintendent on Monday.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- There's a surprising twist in the search for Chicago's new police superintendent: Mayor Rahm Emanuel's apparent pick is not on the police board's short list.

Out of 39 applicants, three finalists were in the running for the job, but it appears the mayor has chosen a different direction. The police board's finalists included: Dr. Cedric Alexander, a director of public safety from DeKalb County, Ga.; Anne Kirkpatrick, the former chief of police in Spokane, Wash.; and Eugene Williams, chief of support services here in Chicago.

But instead of choosing one of them, the mayor is expected to name his choice of Eddie Johnson - chief of the patrol division - as interim superintendent on Monday.

A 27-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department, Johnson was named Commander of the 6th District in 2008, promoted to Deputy Chief of Patrol in 2012 and just recently elevated to Chief of Patrol after the shakeup that followed former Superintendent Garry McCarthy's firing.

"I think it was a great choice. I think Eddie will be just a magnificent superintendent, I really do," said Ret. Chief Deputy Bruce Rottner.

Rotter echoes the opinion of dozens of Chicago police veterans who have voiced support for Johnson. Many say he will bring experience and knowledge to a department still reeling from controversies like the police shooting of teenager Laquan McDonald.

"He's loved and respected by police officers on the street, number one. But I think equally important, he is loved by the community," said Fr. Michael Pfleger, St. Sabina Church.

Pfleger has known Johnson for years and says he called Saturday night to offer his congratulations.

"He was a little overwhelmed, honored, but also made it very clear, we have to turn this thing around," Pfleger said.

"You have a better shot of getting a handle on the Chicago Police Department if you know it. It takes a while to learn it," said Dr. Leon Finney, a minister.

But the announcement also comes with controversy. Johnson was not among the three finalists presented to the mayor by the police board, and in fact, he never even applied for the job. Some accuse Mayor Emanuel of thwarting the process.

"People gotta be looking at us and laughing and saying, 'What the hell is going on over here in the city of Chicago?'" said Ald. Nicholas Sposato, 38th Ward.

Kelley Quinn, a spokesperson for the mayor's office, did not name names on Sunday, but said of the police board's picks: "The mayor did not feel that any of them were the complete package that Chicago needs at this time and thus none were offered the position. The mayor called each of them individually late Saturday to let them know of his decision."

Because city law requires the superintendent to be chosen from one of the police board's finalists, sources close to the process told ABC7 Johnson will be named interim superintendent until a new search can be conducted, if only in name.

"He's going to have to go back to the police board. Have the police board make this gentleman a finalist and then have him presented again with the other finalists so he can chose him, even though he's already chosen him," said Laura Washington, ABC7 political analyst.

Lori Lightfoot, president of the Chicago Police Board, issued a statement Sunday morning.

"The Police Board has not received formal communication from the Mayor regarding the three nominees it submitted for the position of Superintendent of Police," Lightfoot said. "The Board will be taking no action until it receives such notification. Until then, we will have no further comment."

In an ABC7 Newsviews interview earlier this month, Lightfoot said: "This is a very tough and time-consuming process. We've spent more than three months engaged in it ... we're frankly not interested in starting that process over again."

She also noted in that interview that past mayors have bypassed the police board's superintendent recommendations. Former Mayor Richard Daley nixed board suggestions and picked Jody Weis.

Adding to the surprise announcement, one of the finalists - Cedric Alexander from Georgia - said the mayor offered him the job last week, then called Saturday night to withdraw the offer.

On Sunday night, Alexander declined to comment, saying: "I've moved on."

"The mayor has always been very clear that it's going to be his decision. He's really all about control. He wanted to control this process and he's taking the process away from the board," Washington said.

The mayor's office is sticking to its statement, which indicates that no offers were presented to any of the three finalists.