Facing criticism, Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson goes on the defense over inspector general’s Laquan McDonald report

Johnson was flanked by several African American aldermen who showed up in support of him at a Saturday morning news conference.

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Police Supt. Eddie Johnson

Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson

Sun-Times file photo

Flanked by several African American Chicago aldermen supporting him, Supt. Eddie Johnson went on the defense Saturday morning at a news conference to respond to an inspector general’s report released this week noting he was among police brass who viewed video of the Laquan McDonald shooting and did not object to it.

Johnson said that he did not see the video until two weeks after the fatal incident and that as a deputy chief of patrol at the time, he was not involved in any decisions about disciplinary action following uses of force.

He also said he did not receive investigative updates from the Independent Police Review Authority or internal affairs on officer-involved incidents at the time, explaining that his input was limited to recommendations on officer training or equipment issues.

“It would have been improper for deputy chiefs to comment on areas outside of that as they are not privy to the full scope of available information,” Johnson said. “To be clear, I never thought and I never said that the shooting of Laquan McDonald was justified.”

Johnson dismissed the fact that he had seen the video as a deputy chief with other command staff as old news being rehashed. He was surrounded at the news conference by members of the City Council’s Black Caucus, in a show of support.

“We are not here to call for the superintendent’s resignation, as some may have thought or felt, we are here to support the superintendent and we believe him to be a man of integrity,” Black Caucus Charirman Ald. Jason Ervin (28th) said. ”He has kept his word to us and has been a champion in our community.”

Also on Saturday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot released a statement saying Johnson has her “full faith and confidence” and calling him “a champion for real, lasting police reform in Chicago...”

Missing from those supporting Johnson were several other African American aldermen who told the Sun-Times earlier this week that Johnson had lost their trust, including Ald. Jeanette Taylor (20th).

“He should not be able to keep his job because of this. He knew. This is another way that our communities feel like we can’t trust the people who are supposed to protect us,” Taylor said Thursday.

Johnson held a closed door meeting with the City Council’s Black Caucus on Friday to assuage aldermen who believe he has lost the trust of African Americans.

“The superintendent assured me that, at no time was he in a group setting with [former] Superintendent Garry McCarthy’s command staff and come to a general consensus that it was a justified shooting,” Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th) said of Friday’s meeting.

Taliaferro was asked whether or not he believes the superintendent.

”I have no reason not to believe him. At the minimum the superintendent should be given the opportunity to speak his truth,” Taliaferro said.

According to a report, released Wednesday, by the city’s inspector general Joe Ferguson, Johnson was present at a meeting of top brass viewing the McDonald shooting video on Nov. 1, 2015. “Everyone in the meeting agreed the shooting was justified,” Ferguson’s report stated, quoting Lt. Ozzie Valdez.

Johnson said Saturday he was focused on moving the city forward.

“In terms of why other people want to rehash this, you’d have to ask them,” Johnson said. “My focus is on the Chicago Police Department and the city. What other peoples’ motivations are, I can’t worry about that.”

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