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Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson addresses the media Wednesday after Mayor Rahm Emanuel’'s annual budget address at City Hall. | Max Herman/For the Sun-Times

Emanuel welcomes Eddie Johnson back to work during budget address

SHARE Emanuel welcomes Eddie Johnson back to work during budget address
SHARE Emanuel welcomes Eddie Johnson back to work during budget address

Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson has survived a kidney transplant, another fainting spell and a fender-bender in recent weeks. But, he looked none the worse for wear Wednesday.

In fact, you could say he was the guest of honor at City Hall on a day when Mayor Rahm Emanuel is supposed to be the center of attention.

During his budget address to the City Council, Emanuel welcomed Johnson back to work seven weeks after the superintendent received a kidney donated by his 25-year-old son, Daniel.

Johnson then listened intently as Emanuel promised to earmark $27.4 million toward police reform, $17 million of it to add 100 additional field training officers. That’s in addition to the 92 FTos included in the mayor’s two-year hiring surge.

The U.S. Justice Department’s scathing indictment of the Chicago Police Department described the field training program as a “hot mess” with too many officers assigned to each mentor and too many trainers openly instructing rookies to “forget everything they taught you” at the police academy.

“Comments like that have probably been going on since the beginning of law enforcement,” Johnson said.

“We have to recognize that, if we want recruits to be the best they can, we have to give them the best training that we can. The additional FTOs will help us get to that point.”

CPD Supt. Eddie Johnson (right), who recently had a kidney transplant, is welcomed at City Hall by Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th), chairman of the City Council’s black caucus. Mayor Rahm Emanuel planned to officially welcome Johnson back to duty in his budget

CPD Supt. Eddie Johnson (right), who recently had a kidney transplant, is welcomed at City Hall by Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th), chairman of the City Council’s black caucus. Mayor Rahm Emanuel planned to officially welcome Johnson back to duty in his budget address. | Fran Spielman/Sun-Times

During his speech, Eoanuel acknowledged that the “level of violence in some of our neighborhoods is totally unacoeptable.”

He promised to “rise to meet the challenge of gun violence,” in part, by persuading police officers to be “pro-active” again and by delivering on his two-year hiring plan with 701 new officers hitting the streets in Chicago neighborhoods between now and the end of Aprilo

The mayor also stole Johnson’s thunder — by announcing the promotion of Austin District Commander Dwayne Betts as “head of community policing citywide.”

Betts, who was also in the City Council chambers, will be charged with reviving a community policing program that Johnson’s own advisory panel has concluded is “pretty much dead” because of inadequate training, insufficient funding and incessant bureaucratic shuffling.

“Commander Betts, soon to be Deputy Chief Betts, has a solid foundation in community policing. He’s the right person at the right time for the job. He has a lot of knowledge. Wherever he’s been, he’s done a really good job bringing the community together with the Police Department. I don’t expect anything different from him,” Johnson said.

On Friday, Johnson became light-headed and collapsed onstage during an event in Springfield. As he did after nearly fainting at a press conference in January, Johnson blamed his decision to take blood pressure medication on an empty stomach.

On Monday, a vehicle carrying Johnson was involved in a minor crash on the Dan Ryan Expressway.

The superintendent’s vehicle, driven by a police officer, collided with another vehicle during a lane change just south of Roosevelt Road, officials said. No one was injured. No tickets were issued. Both vehicles drove away.

“It was just a minor traffic accident on the Dan Ryan. Nothing major. Just some damage to the vehicle,” he said.

Asked Wednesday how he’s feeling after all that and the kidney transplant, Johnson said, “I feel great. The doctors did a wonderful job in terms of the surgery. I just really have to acknowledge the surgeon and the nephrologist.”

As for the two fainting spells, Johnson joked about keeping a bottle of water in one pocket and an energy bar in the other.

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