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Preckwinkle vows to dump Police Supt. Eddie Johnson for denying code of silence

Video by Sun-Times Staff

If Toni Preckwinkle is elected mayor of Chicago, Police Supt. Eddie Johnson will be looking for a new job or living off his police pension.

Preckwinkle said Friday she would dump Johnson for one reason.

“He refused to acknowledge that there was a code of silence in the Police Department . . . I don’t think that’s an honest statement,” Preckwinkle said.

“It’s very important that police be accountable for their conduct. And if you won’t even acknowledge that there’s a code of silence in the Police Department, how can you possibly do that? . . . If you start out by saying . . . we have never condoned or covered up bad police behaviors, I don’t think that’s a characteristic of an effective leader.”

Preckwinkle then let loose about the “police narrative” that followed the shooting of Laquan McDonald that turned out to be false “from the bottom to the top.”

Three police officers are now on trial for allegedly participating in the cover-up.

“It was not true that Laquan McDonald was taking aggressive action toward the police officers when he was shot. He was walking away or stumbling away and he was shot in the back,” said Preckwinkle, who was approached early on for a copy of the autopsy by a “neighborhood journalist.”

“I’m grateful that Jason Van Dyke was found guilty of his murder. But he’s the first police officer in 50 years to be found guilty of murder, and I don’t think he’s the first officer in 50 years to have murdered one of our citizens. We have to hold our officers accountable for their bad behavior. And we can’t allow police officers to condone and cover up that bad behavior.”

Mayor Rahm Emanuel famously acknowledged that there is a code of silence in the Chicago Police Department in the furor over his handling of the McDonald shooting video.

But that didn’t stop Johnson from testifying under oath during a lawsuit deposition that he was unaware of any such code to protect officers accused of misconduct.

Video by Brian Ernst & Brian Rich

Police Department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi could not be reached for comment on Preckwinkle’s statement.

Fired Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy has condemned what he has called Emanuel’s “illegitimate” end-run around the Police Board’s nationwide search for his replacement that allowed the mayor to choose Johnson, who didn’t even apply for the job.

Emanuel pulled it off by rejecting all three finalists chosen by the Police Board after a first nationwide search and by persuading the City Council to cancel the second nationwide search required by law.

Preckwinkle’s decision to target Johnson won’t sit well with the Fraternal Order of Police.

FOP President Kevin Graham has also denied the existence of a code of silence. Many of his members view Preckwinkle and her former chief of staff, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, as soft on crime for spearheading criminal justice reforms that have reduced the population of Cook County Jail.

On Friday, Preckwinkle was asked how she could possibly negotiate a new police contract with a union that is fighting the proposed consent decree outlining the terms of federal court oversight over the Chicago Police Department.

“I expect them to do their jobs — whatever they think of the mayor of the city of Chicago. There are often situations where employers and employee unions are at odds and they work out agreements. That’s not uncommon,” Preckwinkle said.

She added, “I’m very proud of Kim Foxx. I was very disturbed by the fact that Anita Alvarez did not seem to be willing to prosecute bad police officers. Not to mention the fact that she had a very, what I used to say, lock ’em up and hang ’em high attitude toward the black and brown people who flood our courtrooms.”

During a free-wheeling interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, Preckwinkle also:

  • Said the jury is still out on the future of Schools CEO Janice Jackson because of her mishandling of special education and the school sex abuse scandal.
  • Declared her opposition to a so-called “LaSalle Street tax” embraced by the Chicago Teachers Union that has endorsed her, arguing that it would drive the financial exchanges out of Chicago.
  • Made no apologies for her wildly-unpopular push for a now-repealed tax on sweetened beverages, saying, “Sometimes, good public policy is neither popular nor possible.”
  • Said she would not move to strip aldermen of their iron-fisted control over zoning in their wards.
  • Argued that the playing field has been tilted too far in favor of ride-hailing giants Uber and Lyft, decimating the taxicab industry and siphoning riders and revenue from the CTA.
  • Urged Emanuel to “push pause” on his $95 million plan to build a new police academy and on his plan for $1.5 billion in tax-increment-financing (TIF) subsidies to unlock the development potential of four mega-projects in and around downtown.