RE­PORT ON IN­CI­DENT THAT GOT JOHN­SON FIRED TO STAY SE­CRET

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY FRAN SPIEL­MAN, CITY HALL RE­PORTER fspiel­man@sun­times.com | @fspiel­man

De­spite me­dia de­mands to make it pub­lic, In­spec­tor Gen­eral Joe Fer­gu­son’s fi­nal re­port on the Oct. 17 drink­ing and driv­ing in­ci­dent that got for­mer CPD Supt. Ed­die John­son fired will re­main un­der wraps, a de­fi­ant Mayor Lori Light­foot said Wed­nes­day.

Light­foot said the or­di­nance she pushed through the City Coun­cil in Septem­ber em­pow­ers Chicago’s cor­po­ra­tion coun­sel to re­lease Fer­gu­son’s re­ports only when they in­volve “sus­tained find­ings re­gard­ing con­duct that ei­ther is as­so­ci­ated with a death or is, or may be, a felony as de­fined in the Illi­nois Crim­i­nal Code and is of a com­pelling pub­lic in­ter­est.”

The mayor ac­knowl­edged John­son’s ac­tions ab­so­lutely mea­sure up on the “com­pelling pub­lic in­ter­est” front. But nei­ther he nor the re­spond­ing of­fi­cers who al­lowed the su­per­in­ten­dent to drive home with­out ad­min­is­ter­ing a so­bri­ety test com­mit­ted a felony.

There­fore, Fer­gu­son’s re­port will re­main se­cret. It will not be re­leased no mat­ter how loud or how of­ten the me­dia whines, the mayor said.

“The law does not al­low us to do that. I know there’s been a lot of chat­ter among the me­dia that is anx­ious to dive into the re­ports. But look at what the statute says,” the mayor said.

Light­foot said she has looked at the or­di­nance “20 ways from Sun­day” and the law is clear. She and the at­tor­neys around her “value our law li­censes and we are gonna fol­low the law.”

“We put out what we can put out. We’ll put out some ad­di­tional ma­te­ri­als. But there’s noth­ing un­der the law that al­lows us . . . to put out the re­ports of the in­spec­tor gen­eral,” the mayor said.

“I know that makes peo­ple un­happy. I know there are gonna be peo­ple who write ar­ti­cles say­ing, ‘Oh, the mayor [is be­ing se­cre­tive].’ Doesn’t mat­ter. We’re gonna fol­low the law.”

Why not change the or­di­nance to al­low for re­lease of the lon­gawaited re­port?

“We are not gonna cut-and-paste what our law is be­cause the me­dia is un­happy. We’re gonna do the right thing to make sure that we are trans­par­ent with the pub­lic. And the me­dia is go­ing to have to live within those bound­aries,” she said.

Light­foot fired John­son Dec. 1 af­ter ac­cus­ing the po­lice su­per­in­ten­dent she in­her­ited of “ly­ing to me and ly­ing to the pub­lic” about the cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing the Oct. 17 in­ci­dent.

Ear­lier this week, the city re­leased a trove of doc­u­ments and footage re­lated to what po­lice re­ports called the “high-pro­file” in­ci­dent.

Among the ma­te­ri­als re­leased was body­cam video from one of the of­fi­cers who dis­cov­ered John­son in his SUV near 34th Place and Aberdeen shortly af­ter mid­night on Oct. 17, 2019.

Sources said sev­eral videos in­volv­ing the in­ci­dent ex­ist. Sources said they show John­son drink­ing at Ceres Café with a woman who is not his wife, driv­ing and mak­ing wide turns, and ar­riv­ing home, fol­lowed by of­fi­cers who help walk him into his home.

IM­AGE FROM VIDEO

Then-Chicago Po­lice Supt. Ed­die John­son in his SUV in footage from an of­fi­cer’s body cam­era.

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