Eddie Johnson’s special night of police dispensation

When Johnson finally arrived at his South Side home after a night of drinking and driving, officers in two police cars were waiting, but not to arrest him.

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Former Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Now we know, in fuller detail, what happened on the night last fall when former Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson was found slumped behind the wheel of his car.

And the details are damning for both Johnson and the police force he once led.

It is impossible to read City Inspector Joe Ferguson’s summary of his findings, as reported by Fran Spielman of the Sun-Times on Thursday, without feeling a certain regret. Johnson was a good cop over a long career, rising to the occasion as superintendent and presiding over declines in violent crime citywide. It would be unfair to define his legacy solely on the basis of one bad night.

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But to read Ferguson’s findings is to be convinced that Mayor Lori Lightfoot was justified in forcing Johnson into retirement on Dec. 2. And if the former superintendent’s legacy is forever tarnished — well, that’s on him.

Ferguson’s findings refute every significant claim of appropriate behavior by the police on that night, Oct. 16.

  • Johnson lied to Lightfoot about having only a “couple of drinks.” He had drunk a lot.
  • An officer who responded to a call of a man asleep in a car turned off his body camera after seeing who that man was: Johnson.
  • Nobody did a field sobriety test.
  • A police supervisor, called to the scene, allowed his unsteady boss to get back on the road.
  • Johnson rolled through a stop sign and made a slow, wide turn into a wrong lane. It was the kind of drunk turn that gets people hurt.
  • Minutes after Johnson left the scene, somebody called a police dispatcher and said no police action was needed.
  • Johnson later told Lightfoot that he had referred the incident to police internal affairs investigators, but he had not.

We constantly are assured by City Hall that the Chicago Police Department is reforming its ways. We are told that CPD serves and protects every Chicagoan equally and without favor. We are told there is no tolerance for the “blue code of silence” that covers up police misconduct.

And yet when Johnson finally arrived at his South Side home that night, officers in two police cars were waiting.

Not to arrest him, but to tuck him in.

Ferguson released only a summary of his findings. The city’s Law Department has blocked release of his full report.

Nuts to that — release the full report now.

Ferguson is expected to release a second report on whether CPD should take action against any of the officers involved in Johnson’s night of special police dispensation.

Take action against some lowly beat cop who might have been afraid to take on the big boss?

Hard to say.

Take action against any high-ranking officer who supervised a cover-up?

You bet.

Send letters to letters@suntimes.com.

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