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Interim Police Supt. Charlie Beck on Eddie Johnson: ‘None of us are perfect’

Beck said he and Johnson are friends and will talk during the leadership transition.

“None of us are perfect.” That was how interim Police Supt. Charlie Beck on Tuesday framed the mistakes that led to the firing of his friend and predecessor Eddie Johnson.

“I’ll say this, none of us are perfect, everybody makes mistakes. But we have to live with that, we have to live with our errors,” Beck said at an unrelated news conference at police headquarters.

“I am still the former superintendent’s friend, but, you know, all of us have to be accountable. And I know that. He knows that. And now anybody in CPD who thought that wasn’t true, they know it too,” Beck said.

Asked about recent conversations with Johnson, Beck said: “You’ll find that I will not talk about the details of my conversations with a couple of people. And one is Eddie Johnson and the other is Mayor Lightfoot.”

Beck ticked off the three things he holds most important in police work: public trust, police accountability and police effectiveness.

“Supt. Johnson and I will still talk, we have talked, he has the best interests of the city and CPD at heart, as do I,” Beck said.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Monday fired Johnson, who was preparing to retire, accusing him of “lying to me and lying to the public” about an embarrassing drinking-and-driving incident in mid-October.

Lightfoot acted quickly after reviewing the findings of Inspector General Joe Ferguson’s report about the Oct. 17 incident.

Johnson was found slumped over in his police SUV around 12:30 a.m. near the 3400 block of South Aberdeen. He had dismissed his driver and tried to drive himself home.

“The findings ... make it clear that Eddie Johnson engaged in conduct that is not only unbecoming, but demonstrated a series of ethical lapses and flawed decision-making that is inconsistent with having the privilege of leading the Chicago Police Department,” the mayor said Monday at a hastily called City Hall news conference.

“Had I known these facts at the time, I would have relieved him of his duties as superintendent then and there. I certainly would not have participated in a celebratory press conference to announce his retirement. Mr. Johnson failed the hard-working members of the Chicago Police Department. He intentionally misled the people of Chicago and he intentionally misled me. None of that is acceptable.”

Johnson was informed of the decision at a City Hall meeting with the mayor that lasted all of a few minutes. He left the mayor’s office without comment.

Pressed to describe Johnson’s reaction, Lightfoot offered a one-word answer: “Accepting.”

As word of Johnson’s imminent firing leaked out Monday morning, so did hints of an imminent shakeup at CPD.

Lightfoot did not address other high-level changes in the department on Monday, however, saying only: “I’m aware that some people are gonna be retiring.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, however, only one member of CPD leadership had submitted his retirement paperwork to the pension board: George Devereux, deputy chief of patrol.

Contributing: Frank Main

Retiring Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson (right) walks through CPD headquarters with newly-appointed Interim-Supt. Charlie Beck in November 2019.
Interim Chicago Police Supt. Charlie Beck, left, with then-Supt. Eddie Johnson on Nov. 8, 2019.
Sun-Times file photo