Former CPD Superintendent Eddie Johnson officially retires from force, mayor's office says

Thursday, December 5, 2019
Former CPD Superintendent Eddie Johnson officially retires from force, mayor's office says
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Eddie Johnson is officially cutting ties with the Chicago Police Department by filing for retirement, effective immediately.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Eddie Johnson is officially cutting ties with the Chicago Police Department by filing for retirement, effective immediately.

Johnson was fired as Chicago police superintendent by Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Monday for what happened the night he was found asleep behind the wheel of his SUV.

But the former CPD superintendent officially "retired from his career service rank" on Wednesday, according to the mayor's office. He's no longer employed by the Chicago Police Department, the mayor's office said.

As new details emerge in the incident that cost Johnson his job as Chicago police superintendent, some aldermen are raising concerns about a need for transparency in the investigation.

"This is like a big soap opera right now, you know, I mean it's like, let's move on. He did what he did, he lost his job, move on, solve crimes, keep the people safe, that's what's important," said Ald. Walter Burnett, 27th Ward.

But as Inspector General Joe Ferguson methodically continues his investigation, alderman have mixed feelings on whether everything should be released.

"Absolutely I am a strong believer of that. I am 'Mr. Transparency,' and I believe it should, that will squash any concerns, thoughts or other people's assumptions," said Ald. David Moore, 17th Ward.

Ald. Jason Ervin of the 28th Ward believes there can be a balance.

"I think you can achieve both goals of transparency and not necessarily revealing everything that has to be done, again the man does have, he's a person tell me is an individual and he has a family and if it's not necessary to disparage anyone, why should we do that," said Ald. Jason Ervin, 28th Ward.

In his first public statement since being fired from his position, Eddie Johnson denied misleading the mayor.

"I made a poor decision and had a lapse of judgment on the night of October 16," Johnson wrote. "That was a mistake and I know that."

READ: Full letter from former CPD Supt. Eddie Johnson

Sources now confirm that on the night of October 16, Johnson was at the Ceres Cafe, inside the Board of Trade building, having drinks for three hours with Cynthia Donald. Donald is a CPD officer who was a member of Johnson's security detail, and often served as his driver. She declined to comment.

A source with direct knowledge of the investigation said video shows the pair kissing at the bar, and Johnson consuming three drinks. The video has been subpoenaed by the inspector general, who has also interviewed as many as nine people connected with the case.

ABC News reports that an official source close to the investigation said Johnson did not flash his star to responding officers on the night in question. According to ABC News, the officers' video shows Johnson showed his police ID when asked for ID behind the wheel, because officers did not recognize him immediately.

Once Johnson showed his ID, the cops reportedly exchanged some words and Johnson said he was okay to drive away. The responding officers then let Johnson drive away, the source told ABC News. The interaction lasted less than a minute, a source told ABC7 Eyewitness News.

Johnson's attorney spoke exclusively with ABC7 Eyewitness News Political Reporter Craig Wall.

"His reputation is solid. It may take a ding from this controversy, but it's not a serious blow," attorney Tom Needham said.

On Monday morning, Mayor Lightfoot announced Johnson had been fired from his position effective immediately. She criticized Johnson for a series of "intolerable" actions, including lying to her and the public about the night of the incident in which he was found slumped over the wheel of his police-issued SUV at a stop sign near his home in Bridgeport.

"Just like with the public, Eddie Johnson intentionally lied to me several times," Lightfoot said. "Even when I challenged him about the narrative he shared with me, he maintained that he was telling the truth. I now know definitively that he was not. Had I known these facts at the time, I would have relieved him of his duties as superintendent then and there. I certainly would not have participated in a celebratory press conference to announce his retirement."

Johnson, through his attorney, denied lying about the incident to the mayor or anyone else.

"That's not how he sees it, he respects her opinion and he feels she's entitled to that view but he's entitled to his reputation and there is no way that Eddie Johnson intentionally lied to the mayor," Needham said. "That's just not the case."

FULL PRESS CONFERENCE: Mayor Lightfoot announces termination of Supt. Eddie Johnson

Lightfoot said an inspector general's report, which includes video evidence, showed a different account. She declined to discuss it.

"While at some point, the inspector general's report may become public and those details may be revealed, I don't feel like it is appropriate or fair to Mr. Johnson's wife or children to do so at this time," Lightfoot said.

WATCH: Eddie Johnson announces retirement alongside Mayor Lightfoot

Johnson initially announced his retirement on November 7 after serving as a Chicago police officer for 31 years, and superintendent for 3 1/2 years.

Johnson said in a statement that he has no interest in fighting for his reputation, he hopes people will judge him on the entirety of his career and not his worst days.

"He's concerned that some people are going to define it that way," Needham said. "He actually feels completely at peace with his entire career."

Johnson plans to spend the holidays with his family and said he will be available in any way Beck might need him.


Former Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck, who was named as an interim replacement last month, took over Monday and spent the day meeting with department officials. He was not set to take over until Johnson's scheduled retirement date of January 1.

During his first full day on the job Tuesday, Beck said this was not how he envisioned the transition into his position happening, and that he still considers Johnson a friend, but there has to be accountability in the Chicago Police Department and that includes the former superintendent.

"Well, I'll say this, you know, none of us are perfect, everybody makes mistakes, but we live with that, we have to live with our errors," Beck said.

Beck sent a letter to CPD officers saying in part he realizes "Johnson's firing probably caused a great deal of unease but the Department is strong and headed in the right direction". Beck's letter also praised CPD for a "crime strategy that has delivered nearly a 40% percent drop in gun violence over the last four years," while acknowledging there is still a tremendous amount of work ahead.

WATCH: Interim Supt. Charlie Beck speaks on leading CPD through transition

READ: Interim Superintendent Charlie Beck's message to CPD:

Dear Members,
I wanted to take a moment to reach out to the sworn and civilian members of the Chicago Police Department this morning to let you know that it is an honor and a privilege to have this opportunity to serve as your Interim Police Superintendent. I know that the events of this morning likely caused a great deal of unease, but rest assured this Department is stable, strong, and headed in the right direction.

I served as a police officer for more than 40 years in Los Angeles, and was their Police Chief for nine of those years. I come from a police family. My father came to the Los Angeles Police Department in the 1950s, and all three of my kids are on the job in LA today.

I understand and respect what it is that you do each and every day in serving the public, and I intend to do everything in my interim capacity to support you and that work.

Over the last few years, the progress that you have made here in Chicago is impressive and is a testament to each one of you. In 2016, as America watched this city, you all could have gone in a direction like many other cities. But instead, you developed a crime strategy that has delivered a nearly 40% drop in gun violence in four years. You have embraced community partnership and constitutional policing by implementing a series of reforms and supports that are collaborative as opposed to punitive.

There is still a tremendous amount of work ahead and we will need to manage through our current challenges, but I am incredibly thankful and proud to be here to help us move forward.

Over the next several weeks I will continue visiting Police Districts and Areas, and I look forward to meeting many of you in person. I believe in each of you and your collective capacity to continue to move this Department forward and keep this city safe.

See you out there.

Charlie Beck
Interim Superintendent of Police


The inspector general's office told ABC 7 that in order for them to issue a summary of their investigation of Johnson in time for the next quarterly report, January 15th, the investigation would have to be complete by December 31st.

The office added that would have to include allowing 30 days for the police department to respond, which means in all likelihood that the IG's report may not come out before mid-April.

Even after leaving the department, Eddie Johnson could still be subpoenaed to appear by the inspector general.