Johnson settles into new role as CPD interim superintendent

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CHICAGO -- Tuesday was day No. 2 for Eddie Johnson as the Chicago Police superintendent, and he spent part of the day reviewing the latest crime stats.

Johnson called taking the job one of the proudest moments of his career -- though at police headquarters not everyone felt that way. A group upset with the process that brought Chicago a new police superintendent staged a protest. Inside the building, Johnson, a 27-year CPD veteran, settled into his corner office.

He said he heard the protesters -- and plans to meet with leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement.

“They are a part of Chicago and deserve to have their voices heard,” Johnson said Tuesday. He added the most pressing issue facing the force is a crisis of trust.

Johnson said the wounds opened in the black community by the police killing of Laquan McDonald will take time to heal.

“I think the relationship is fractured, but I also think we can regain their trust, and that’s what I’m aiming to do,” Johnson said.

As Johnson assumes the reins, the U.S. Department of Justice’s civil rights division is conducting an investigation of the police force -- and the city is dealing with the largest spike in violent crime in more than a decade, with shooting and homicides up dramatically.

“The police alone cannot solve the problem; it’s not a police problem. It’s a community problem.”

He didn’t initially apply for the job, and says he was approached by Mayor Rahm Emanuel about it last week. He accepted it on one condition: no political meddling from the mayor.

“The politics of things going on in Chicago? I don’t do that,” said Johnson. “One thing I do know how to do is be a cop, and I know how to listen to people, and that’s what we need right now.”

Unlike his predecessor, Garry McCarthy, who came from New Jersey, Johnson was born in Chicago and raised in Cabrini-Green. He’s a die-hard Bears fan – as you can plainly see in his office decorations.

“I think being from Chicago, I love this city. I really do,” said Johnson. “I raised my kids here. I live here. I’ve been a member of CPD most of my adult life. I think that gives me a different perspective on things. When people ask me, and say to me, ‘Man, you seem like you really care,’ that’s because I really do.”

Johnson said the key to repairing relationships will be listening to people in the parts of the city that have often been ignored.