Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot fired retiring Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson Monday, saying Johnson lied about an October incident in which he was found sleeping in his car after supposedly having drinks with dinner.
“It has become clear that Mr. Johnson engaged in a series of actions that are intolerable for any leader in a position of trust, particularly the head of the Chicago Police Department,” she said in a news conference. “Mr. Johnson failed the hardworking members of the Chicago Police Department, he intentionally misled the people of Chicago and he intentionally misled me. None of that is acceptable.”
Lightfoot met with Johnson on Monday to deliver the news, and he was “accepting,” she said.
Johnson’s actions on the night of October 16 and morning of October 17 demonstrated “a series of ethical lapses and flawed decision making,” she said, adding that he then went on to promptly hold a news conference in which he was dishonest with the public.
“He was not caught off guard, and he had plenty of time to choose his words, and the choice he made was a communicated narrative replete with false statements all seemingly intended to hide the true nature of his conduct the evening before,” the mayor said.
Even when Lightfoot challenged his story, she said, he maintained that he was telling the truth.
“I now know definitively that he was not,” she said. “Had I known these facts at the time, I would’ve 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.”
The city’s police union released a statement saying it understood Lightfoot’s decision and appreciated her desire for transparency and accountability within the department. Still, it cautioned against a rush to judgment.
“It’s important to understand that just this weekend, the department stripped an officer who was the victim of a high-risk battery without any investigation and without even taking a statement from the officer,” said Martin Preib, second vice president of the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police.
“It is also important to hold every facet of the city affecting the police department accountable, including (the Civilian Office of Police Accountability), the Chicago Police Board, and Inspector General. We look forward to assisting the mayor in helping to make all these institutions equally accountable.”
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