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FOP president: Lightfoot jumped the gun in firing Supt. Eddie Johnson

For Fraternal Order of Police President Kevin Graham, it’s a matter of due process denied and an inspector general with a history of “swaying things the way he likes to see them.”

Fraternal Order of Police President Kevin Graham is interviewed Wednesday by Sun-Times City Hall reporter Fran Spielman.
Fraternal Order of Police President Kevin Graham is interviewed Wednesday by Sun-Times City Hall reporter Fran Spielman.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Mayor Lori Lightfoot was accused Wednesday of firing Police Supt. Eddie Johnson — before the inspector general had heard Johnson’s side of the drinking-and-driving story — to make the case for hiring an outsider as superintendent.

Fraternal Order of Police President Kevin Graham said it’s a matter of due process denied and an inspector general with a history of “swaying things the way he likes to see them.”

“If you take disciplinary action before the investigation has been complete or there has not even been a statement given, I would say that’s premature,” Graham told the Sun-Times.

“It’s not about Eddie Johnson. It’s about any police officer getting fair and due process. Until you have that, you are not going to have change in this city. There is going to be a division as to whether or not people are skeptical about the police because you’re not treating the police fairly.”

Just weeks ago Johnson was the subject of a no-confidence vote for boycotting President Donald Trump’s Chicago speech to the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

The mayor’s office had no immediate response to Graham’s remarks.

Graham said he thinks he knows why Lightfoot jumped the gun by firing Johnson.

“They are trying to make the case to bring somebody in from outside” to become Johnson’s permanent replacement, the union president said.

Pointing to outsiders Garry McCarthy and Jody Weis, Graham said, “It hasn’t worked out real well. ... They don’t understand the contract. … Both of those people came in thinking that there needed to be change. And they are changing the wrong things.”

On Monday, Lightfoot fired Johnson after accusing the retiring superintendent of “lying to me and lying to the public” about the circumstances surrounding the Oct. 17 incident that culminated in him being found slumped over in his police SUV with the engine running near the 3400 block of South Aberdeen Street.

Rather than having “a couple of drinks” during a “dinner with friends,” as Johnson told the mayor, sources said he spent three hours drinking at a restaurant known for serving tall drinks with a woman whom he had promoted to his security detail shortly after becoming superintendent.

Sources said the woman, who has since been reassigned, is seen on restaurant video repeatedly kissing Johnson.

Police and Chicago Fire Department personnel who responded allowed Johnson to drive himself to his Bridgeport home.

Multiple police employees are now under investigation for allegedly engaging in a widespread cover-up to protect Johnson.

On Wednesday, Graham acknowledged “four or five” of his members have been questioned by the inspector general’s office.

Although there was no field sobriety test administered and Johnson was allowed to drive himself home, Graham flatly denied the rules were bent to protect the boss.

“You have to have probable cause to get somebody out of their car to give them a field sobriety test. … Simply because you pull over … because you’re tired — that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve been drinking,” Graham said.

“If those officers knew the totality of the circumstances, there may have been a sobriety test done. ... [But] if you reasonably believe that somebody pulled off to the side of the road because they’re tired, and you accept that as a plausible reason, you don’t need to give a sobriety test.”

Graham said he can’t say whether there was a cover-up because “I don’t know what occurred after those officers were dismissed from the scene.”

“I seriously doubt that anybody faked a report because I don’t know that needed to be done,” he said. “There’s nothing that I know of that occurred that night they needed to cover up. I would like to know what it is that somebody is saying they could have done differently. When they arrived on the scene, they saw it was the superintendent. They called for a supervisor. That is our protocol. They did exactly what they were told to do.”