CHICAGO — Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot fired the city’s retiring police superintendent Monday, citing “ethical lapses” that included telling lies about a recent incident in which Eddie Johnson was found asleep at the wheel of his car after having drinks.
Named to the job in the wake of a police shooting that killed a black teenager, Johnson was dismissed after the mayor reviewed an inspector general’s report and video evidence related to the night in mid-October when officers discovered him unconscious in his SUV. He initially blamed his failure to take his blood pressure medication and said he had a few drinks with dinner earlier in
The officers did not conduct any sobriety tests and let their boss drive home. It was unclear if they would be disciplined.
Johnson “engaged in a series of actions that are intolerable for any leader or position of trust, particularly the head of the Chicago Police Department,” the mayor said. His conduct was “not only unbecoming but shows a series of ethical lapses and flawed decision-making.”
Lightfoot said the police chief of the nation’s third-largest city repeatedly lied about the events that unfolded the night of Oct. 16 and morning of Oct. 17.
“What he portrayed to me, what he portrayed to the public was fundamentally different than what the facts show,” she said. The underlying conduct “warranted this significant and serious action of relieving him of his role.”
At a hastily called news conference, the mayor declined to offer details “out of deference” to Johnson’s family and the ongoing investigation.
“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.
Former Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck, who was already named interim superintendent in Chicago, was to take over the department of 13,500 officers immediately, Lightfoot said.
A Chicago police spokesman did not immediately return messages seeking comment from Johnson, who in more than 30 years with the department held almost every rank on the force. He declined to discuss his firing with a Sun-Times reporter who came to his South Side home.
In October, Johnson called for the department’s internal affairs division to investigate the incident, saying he wanted the public to be confident that both he and the officers acted properly. He said he felt lightheaded while driving home, pulled over and fell asleep. Earlier in his tenure, he was hospitalized for a blood clot and kidney transplant.
Before he officially announced his retirement in November, Johnson told reporters he had been toying with the idea for some time, denying that it had anything to do with the incident.