Ed­die John­son’s spe­cial night of po­lice dis­pen­sa­tion

Chicago Sun-Times - - OPINION -

Now we know, in fuller de­tail, what hap­pened on the night last fall when for­mer Chicago Po­lice Supt. Ed­die John­son was found slumped be­hind the wheel of his car.

And the de­tails are damn­ing for both John­son and the po­lice force he once led.

It is im­pos­si­ble to read City In­spec­tor

Joe Fer­gu­son’s sum­mary of his find­ings, as re­ported by Fran Spielman of the Sun-Times on Thurs­day, with­out feel­ing a cer­tain re­gret. John­son was a good cop over a long ca­reer, ris­ing to the oc­ca­sion as su­per­in­ten­dent and pre­sid­ing over de­clines in vi­o­lent crime city­wide. It would be un­fair to de­fine his legacy solely on the ba­sis of one bad night.

But to read Fer­gu­son’s find­ings is to be con­vinced that Mayor Lori Light­foot was jus­ti­fied in forc­ing John­son into re­tire­ment on Dec. 2. And if the for­mer su­per­in­ten­dent’s legacy is for­ever tar­nished — well, that’s on him.

Fer­gu­son’s find­ings re­fute ev­ery sig­nif­i­cant claim of ap­pro­pri­ate be­hav­ior by the po­lice on that night, Oct. 16.

John­son lied to Light­foot about hav­ing only a “cou­ple of drinks.” He had drunk a lot.

An of­fi­cer who re­sponded to a call of a man asleep in a car turned off his body cam­era af­ter see­ing who that man was: John­son. No­body did a field so­bri­ety test.

A po­lice su­per­vi­sor, called to the scene, al­lowed his un­steady boss to get back on the road.

John­son rolled through a stop sign and made a slow, wide turn into a wrong lane. It was the kind of drunk turn that gets peo­ple hurt.

Min­utes af­ter John­son left the scene, some­body called a po­lice dis­patcher and said no po­lice ac­tion was needed.

John­son later told Light­foot that he had re­ferred the in­ci­dent to po­lice in­ter­nal af­fairs in­ves­ti­ga­tors, but he had not.

We con­stantly are as­sured by City Hall that the Chicago Po­lice Depart­ment is re­form­ing its ways. We are told that CPD serves and pro­tects ev­ery Chicagoan equally and with­out fa­vor. We are told there is no tol­er­ance for the “blue code of si­lence” that cov­ers up po­lice mis­con­duct.

And yet when John­son fi­nally ar­rived at his South Side home that night, of­fi­cers in two po­lice cars were wait­ing.

Not to ar­rest him, but to tuck him in. Fer­gu­son re­leased only a sum­mary of his find­ings. The city’s Law Depart­ment has blocked re­lease of his full re­port.

Nuts to that — re­lease the full re­port now. Fer­gu­son is ex­pected to re­lease a sec­ond re­port on whether CPD should take ac­tion against any of the of­fi­cers in­volved in John­son’s night of spe­cial po­lice dis­pen­sa­tion.

Take ac­tion against some lowly beat cop who might have been afraid to take on the big boss? Hard to say.

Take ac­tion against any high-rank­ing of­fi­cer who su­per­vised a cover-up?

You bet.

SUN-TIMES FILES

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