Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Monday appointed Eddie Johnson, the current Chief of Patrol in Chicago, as the city's new Interim Superintendent and asked the Chicago Police Board to conduct a new search for the superintendent role.
“I am deeply appreciative of the time and hard work the Police Board put into this search. The three candidates I interviewed have distinguished careers in law enforcement and they all impressed me with their commitment to public safety,” Emanuel said. “However, as our city works through the challenges ahead, it is more important than ever that we find the right person who knows our city and can provide the level of safety every resident deserves, lift the morale of Chicago’s police officers, and build on the work that’s been done to restore trust and accountability in the police department.”
Johnson will replace current Interim Superintendent John Escalante in the position.
Sources revealed over the weekend that, in a surprise move, Emanuel had rejected the three chosen finalists recommended by the police board and asked Johnson to step in and apply for the job. Johnson, a Chicago native, did not apply for the position during the first search, instead saying he wanted to support Escalante, who was not among the final candidates recommended by the board.
The unprecedented move is to comply with the legal requirement that the mayor select a superintendent from finalists chosen by the Police Board.
If Johnson is picked as a finalists and chosen by Emanuel, the choice must then be approved by the City Council.
Prior to Saturday, the three finalists selected by the Chicago Police Board were: Dr. Cedric Alexander, the current Director of Public Safety in Dekalb County, Georgia; Anne Kirkpatrick, the former Chief of Police in Spokane, Washington; and Eugene Williams, the Chief of Support Services in Chicago, and the only current Chicago officer who initially made the cut.
Alexander told NBC 5 in an exclusive interview over the weekend that Emanuel initially offered him the role before reversing course.
Both Emanuel and Johnson acknowledged Monday the importance of appointing someone from within the department for the role.
"Because I’m an insider, I can fix things from the inside out as opposed to coming from the outside and having to fix things from the outside in," Johnson said.
A total of 38 individuals applied for the job after Emanuel fired Former Superintendent Garry McCarthy in December of last year. His ousting came in the wake of the controversial shooting of African-American teen Laquan McDonald.
The surprising choice of Johnson to fill the position comes after the Chicago City Council Black Caucus said it wanted to interview candidates prior to the final decision.
"Deputy Chief Eddie Johnson is a well-respected leader within the Chicago Police Department," City Council Black Caucus Chair Ald. Roderick Sawyer and Latino Caucus Chair Ald. George Cardinas said in a joint statement. "As Interim Superintendent, we expect him to demonstrate a commitment to transparency, accountability, and an end to the culture that has led to the use of excessive force and the 'Blue Wall' of silence."
Johnson, who still lives in Chicago, said the risks of being a police officer in the city are "greater than ever."
"Anyone who thinks the job of being police officer is easy has not done it," he said, adding, however, that there is less tolerance for mistakes.
Johnson noted that there is a trust issue within the department and between officers and communities. Emanuel said Johnson informed commanders in the department this week that he plans to wear a body camera while acting as interim police superintendent.
"Countless incidents of courage and professionalism far outweigh the few examples of excessive force," Johnson said. "Nevertheless these incidents, no matter how isolated, undermine our entire department and our relationship with the community. We have to own it and we have to end."
Emanuel admitted that although Johnson plans to apply for the official title of superintendent, there is a possibility he could still not be named to the role. Meanwhile, Fred Waller will take Johnson's place as Chief of Patrol, the department said.