By Frank Kineavy
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Monday formally appointed Eddie Johnson, a Black, 27-year veteran of the force, to be the city’s interim police superintendent.
Johnson’s appointment follows a tumultuous few months that saw the firing of former police superintendent Garry McCarthy in December amid growing calls for his ouster after a video showed the brutal killing of a Black teen by one of his officers — a video that was not released until a year after the incident and which police had said occurred differently.
Emanuel chose Johnson as the city’s top cop against the three recommendations put forward by the Chicago Police Board. According to Chicago law, a vacancy in the superintendent role is filled only after the Chicago Police Board nominates three candidates to the mayor, which is why Johnson was named interim superintendent.
Johnson has been tasked with the responsibility of mending a broken relationship between Chicago police and citizens that came to its climax after the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald, leading to weeks of protests against Chicago’s alleged police brutality.
In a news conference announcing Johnson’s appointment, Emanuel said the veteran cop “has the command, character and capability to lead the department at this juncture.”
Hours earlier, the members of both the Black and Latino caucus’ celebrated their successful push to pick a minority Chicago Police veteran for the superintendent position.
“We’ve been talking about that, and really what the gist of this is about is the Latino Caucus, the Black Caucus are continuing to work together toward transformative change in the City of Chicago,” said city council member Roderick Sawyer. “Let’s be quite honest here. The city is comprised of a majority of Black and Latino members. We’re the majority. Between the two of us, our two caucuses are the majority of the city council.”
In his opening statement to the public, Johnson proclaimed his main priority simply as “trust,” citing the necessity of trust between law enforcement and the community they serve, as well as trust between police officers themselves that ethical standards are being met.
To a city in fear that cops are against them, Johnson said, “I know that trust won’t be restored overnight. It has to be earned everyday. As for police misconduct, we have to own it and we have to end it.”
City council members are hopeful that Johnson has what it takes to tackle the problems in Black and Latino neighborhoods. “You talk about economic inequality, you talk about school inequality, those are real issues that are facing our communities,” said Latino caucus chairman George Cardenas. “And we should be sitting down and carving that out as a topic of discussion so we can move this city forward in a positive way, and being, obviously, that instrument of change. Because the mayor obviously can’t do everything on his own, and can’t possibly know everything that goes on in every corner of the city.”