New superintendent named; no review of alleged abuses in his old district

No time to vet: Council unanimously approves Johnson as superintendent without examining record as commander of district when there were allegations of repeated abuse.

As all 50 Chicago aldermen voted to appoint Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s pick, Eddie Johnson, as the city’s Police Superintendent, there was nary a discouraging word.

“I don’t think there’s anybody—anybody—that has anything bad to say about you,” 41st Ward Alderman Anthony Napolitano, himself a former policeman, told Johnson. “That’s incredible; keep that up.”

In fact, by bypassing the previously mandated process of selecting a commissioner — requiring the mayor to choose the superintendent from among the three finalists chosen by the Chicago Police Board, after a careful vetting process — the council all but eliminated the chance for outside thoughtful review. No alderman on Wednesday raised any objections to either the appointment of Johnson or the hasty approval, which came after Emanuel rejected last month the three candidates who had been recommended by the police board.

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Nor was there any mention of the pattern of abuse alleged in the Gresham district on Chicago’s South Side during the years that Johnson was commander, between 2008 and 2012.

Injustice Watch reported before the council met that a group of 11 officers were named in two or more lawsuits alleging police misconduct including false arrests, invasive searches and excessive force during Johnson’s time as commander. The investigation, which included an examination of 15 federal lawsuits involving the time that Johnson was commander, found one officer was named in six lawsuits, and another was named in nine.

A Chicago police board official said Wednesday that none of the 11 officers had disciplinary cases before the Chicago Police Board, which reviews misconduct cases that result in long-term suspensions or dismissals. Nine of the officers remain on the payroll working for the department, records show.

Neither the mayor’s office nor Johnson, contacted through the public affairs department of the police, have returned calls from Injustice Watch. 

At a meeting of the City Council’s Committee on Public Safety on Tuesday, before the council approval, Johnson said that disciplining officers for misconduct or inappropriate behavior was one of the things he had done “on the regular.”

“Misconduct at any level—it just cannot be tolerated,” Johnson said at the committee meeting.  “And that starts with me. And I’m making it crystal clear: There’s a huge difference between an honest mistake and intentional misconduct. And officers that want to engage in intentional misconduct—we just have no place for them on the Chicago Police Department.”

Injustice Watch staff members Zoe Rosenbaum, Sam Hart and Camille Darko contributed to this report.