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Eddie Johnson: Van Dyke trial will be ’emotional time for a lot of people’

Laquan McDonald, Jason Van Dyke and Eddie Johnson | Provided and Sun-Times file photos

Days before the murder trial of Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke is set to start, CPD Supt. Eddie Johnson conceded that it’s “going to be an emotional time for a lot of people.”

Addressing reporters at an unrelated press conference at CPD headquarters Friday afternoon, Johnson said police leaders had spoken with local activists who assured him their potential protest plans would be carried out peacefully.

However, Johnson said, “we are making preparations just to be on the safe side,” though he didn’t elaborate on what those plans might be.

“This is our city that we all love and call home, you know,” he added. “So I think people deserve the right to voice their opinion peacefully.”

The release of the Laquan McDonald shooting video in November 2015 prompted an investigation of CPD’s practices by the Department of Justice, and the subsequent consent decree between the city and state — which will be overseen and enforced by a federal judge — has been met with extreme skepticism and resistance from the Fraternal Order of Police, the union representing rank-and-file police officers.

Friday, Johnson acknowledged that, whatever the verdict in the Van Dyke trial is, some people will be unhappy.

“Honestly speaking, it doesn’t matter which way that goes,” Johnson said of the trial. “There’s going to be a group unhappy on either side of it.”

The release of the video also sparked several protests that sprawled throughout the downtown area. It also led to the ouster of Johnson’s predecessor and mayoral candidate Garry McCarthy.

Jury selection in the trial is slated to begin on Wednesday, however Van Dyke’s attorneys may still opt for a bench trial.