CHICAGO — In his first public statement since being fired from his post as Chicago police superintendent, Eddie Johnson denies he misled Mayor Lori Lightfoot but acknowledges mistakes led to his ouster.
Lightfoot terminated Johnson effective immediately Monday, saying an investigation into an October incident when Johnson was reportedly asleep at the wheel of his SUV revealed “actions that are intolerable for any leader,” and that he intentionally lied to her about what occurred.
“I did not intentionally mislead or deceive the mayor or the people of Chicago. I acknowledge that I made a poor decision and had a lapse of judgment on the night of October 16,” Johnson said in a written statement issued Tuesday.
Early the next morning, Johnson was found slumped behind the wheel of his car, originally blaming medication that he said made him sleepy. He later said he also had a few drinks with dinner.
The incident has since been under investigation by Chicago's Office of the Inspector General. During a press conference Monday, Lightfoot told reporters she had reviewed the report of the incident, as well as video, and was left with no choice but to fire Johnson.
Since the investigation is not yet complete, neither the report nor the police dash and body cam videos from that morning have been made public. But the Chicago Tribune is reporting that video footage shows, “Johnson drinking for a few hours on the evening of Oct. 16 with a woman.”
The Tribune also reported that when officers found him “Johnson rolled down the window on his police vehicle partway, flashed his superintendent’s badge and drove off.”
The Chicago Sun-Times reported that Johnson was seen kissing and drinking for several hours with a woman assigned to his security detail. That woman has since been reassigned, the Sun-Times said.
The Inspector General is also now investigating a possible cover-up by allies of Johnson within the department to minimize the damage.
In November, Johnson announced he would retire at the end of the year after more than 30 years with the department.
"I am of course disappointed that I could not finish my career on January 1, as originally planned. However, I respect yesterday's decision of Mayor Lori Lightfoot," Johnson said.
Interim Chicago Police Superintendent Charlie Beck also addressed the public for the first time since Johnson's abrupt firing Tuesday, saying he spent much of Monday meeting with CPD's command staff.
“Well, I’ll say this. None of us are perfect. Everybody makes mistakes, but we have to live with that," Beck said.
"We have to live with our errors, and accountability is policing – there are three things that are important to me in policing – one is trust, one is police accountability, and the other one is police effectiveness,” Beck said.
He says his message to the 13,500 officers of the department is that he will stress trust and accountability.
“I’m still the former superintendent’s friend, but all of us have to be accountable. I know that. He knows that, and now if there’s anybody in CPD who thought that wasn’t true, they know it too,” Beck said.
Beck says he will continue to speak with Johnson and seek his advice when necessary, promising a smooth transition to the permanent superintendent.
EDDIE JOHNSON FULL STATEMENT: