Chicago police superintendent fired weeks before retirement
Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Eddie Johnson acted unethically in relation to the night where he was found asleep in his car
CHICAGO — Mayor Lori Lightfoot has fired police Superintendent Eddie Johnson for intentionally misleading the public and acting unethically in relation to the night where he was found asleep in his car after drinking.
Lightfoot said Johnson had engaged in a series of actions that are “intolerable.”
“Eddie Johnson intentionally lied to me,” Lightfoot said at a morning news conference.
As a result of the move, former Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck, who had been announced previously as Johnson’s interim replacement, will take over as interim superintendent on Monday. Beck is on a flight back to Chicago and will be in town this afternoon, Lightfoot said.
Johnson was unable to be reached for comment on Monday.
The bizarre story began in October, when officers responding to a 911 call found Johnson asleep in his parked car near his home at about 12:30 a.m.
Johnson told reporters he had failed to take medication he’d been prescribed, leading to him fall asleep in his police vehicle on the way home from going out to dinner.
At the time, Johnson told reporters he had been tired after a long day at work Wednesday but went out to dinner with friends that night. He said he felt ill as he drove home from the dinner.
“How can I explain it? It’s just your body kind of gives you a warning with the high blood pressure thing that you may pass out, so I pulled over, stopped and I just rested myself until that feeling passed," he said.
Johnson defended officers’ decision not to test for whether he had been drinking, saying, “Someone asleep in a car doesn’t mean they’re impaired.”
Johnson has not explained why he was driving home from a dinner engagement at 12:30 a.m., particularly on a day he said he felt fatigued.
After suffering a blood clot this past summer, Johnson said his cardiologist “adjusted” his medication during a follow-up appointment on Tuesday. The superintendent said he removed the old medication from his weekly pillbox but had not yet obtained the new prescription, suggesting he hadn’t taken his blood pressure medication for a couple of days.
Anthony Guglielmi, the Police Department’s chief spokesman, previously released a statement saying alcohol did not play a role in the incident.
But Johnson also admitted to Lightfoot that he had “a couple of drinks” with dinner, the mayor previously said.
Had Lightfoot known all of the facts, she wouldn’t have participated in a celebratory press conference with Johnson announcing his retirement, she said.
Firing Johnson is an indication she will demand “The old Chicago way must give way to new way” of ethical leadership. Supervisors in the police department will not get away with ethical lapses, she said.
In a message the mayor sent to Chicago police officers, she wrote: “While I recognize this news comes as a surprise to most of you, this was a decision I felt was absolutely necessary to preserve the legitimacy and honor of the Chicago Police Department. I deeply respect the work that each of you undertake every day and you deserve a Superintendent who lives up to the ideals that I expect each of you to exemplify.”