Records show mixed results for Eddie Johnson in COPA disputes
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Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson angered some in minority communities in the city when he recently said that Officer Robert Rialmo should not be fired for fatally shooting Bettie Jones and Quintonio LeGrier.
While the LeGrier/Jones shooting case has garnered by far the most attention, Johnson has disagreed with COPA’s findings and recommendations five other times in the last two years, records from the Chicago Police Board show.
In disagreements between COPA and the superintendent, a single member of the Chicago Police Board decides whether or not the full board would have a hearing on an officer’s future with the department.
In two of those five disputes, a single member of the board sided with Johnson. In the other three, a board member found that the superintendent’s objections were “not sufficient to meet the burden of overcoming [COPA’s] Chief Administrator’s recommendations for discipline.”
Some cases in which Johnson has disagreed with COPA involve officers allegedly searching a home without a warrant, failing to take a criminal complaint, unlawful display of a weapon and disobedience of directives.
Additionally, records from the police board show that the Jones/LeGrier shooting was not the only time the superintendent disagreed with COPA in the investigation of a fatal police shooting.
Dakota Bright, 15, was shot in the back of the head by Officer Brandon Ternand on Nov. 8, 2012, near 67th and Indiana. The Independent Police Review Authority — COPA’s investigatory predecessor — said Ternand “used an unreasonable and excessive amount of force when he shot (Dakota).”
Records from the police board show that Johnson disagreed with those findings.
“The Superintendent did not concur with the Chief Administrator’s recommended findings or penalty, stating that based on all the evidence presented in this case, it is clear that Officer Ternand’s actions were justified,” police board records state.
On Oct. 18, 2017, the dispute was referred to a member of the police board — identified as Steve Flores, a partner at Winston & Strawn — to decide whether it should come before the entire board.
On Oct. 27, Flores wrote that Johnson’s objections “are not sufficient to meet the burden of overcoming the Chief Administrator’s recommendation for discipline.”
Flores did not specify why he felt Johnson’s findings didn’t pass muster and he declined to elaborate on his decision Tuesday since the case has yet to be heard by the board.
Ten days after Flores’ ruling was issued, Johnson changed his tune and recommended Ternand be fired from the department, records show.
Ternand’s case has yet to come before the full board and an evidentiary hearing is scheduled for next month. Records show Ternand, who joined the CPD in 2007, has more than 25 other misconduct allegations against him, none of which were sustained.
Dakota’s family sued Ternand and the city shortly after his death and, in 2016, reached a settlement with the city for $925,000.
The deliberative police discipline process was thrust into the spotlight last month when Johnson disagreed with COPA’s findings that Rialmo was not justified in shooting Jones and LeGrier in December 2015. Johnson has repeatedly defended his decision.
An anonymous member of the police board has until April 25 to rule on the dispute, but the announcement may come at the board’s monthly meeting on Thursday.
The Dec. 26, 2015 shooting of Jones and LeGrier in the 4700 block of West Erie was the first fatal shooting by a police officer after the release of the Laquan McDonald shooting video. A wrongful death lawsuit filed against the city and Rialmo by the Jones and LeGrier estates is currently playing out in Cook County Circuit Court.
Rialmo’s attorney, Joel Brodsky, has lauded Johnson’s findings as “superior,” given the superintendent’s 30 years in law enforcement.