Eddie Johnson

Chicago Police ‘Failed' in Eddie Johnson Drunk Driving Incident, OIG Report Says; Officers Suspended

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A new report released Friday by the Chicago’s Office of Inspector General outlines an alleged cover-up by seven members of the Chicago Police Department surrounding then-Supt. Eddie Johnson's 2019 drunk driving incident, a response that resulted in suspensions for all seven.

The OIG's report for the third quarter of 2020 detailed the second stage of the investigation into the October 2019 incident in which the then-top cop was found slumped over the wheel of his vehicle near his residence.

Johnson initially blamed it on a change in blood pressure medication, calling it a “medical episode," but a scathing report from the OIG released in July said that was false and that he had actually been driving his city vehicle after a night of heavy drinking.

Johnson announced his retirement less than a month after the incident, and in December, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot fired him in a surprise move, saying he "engaged in a series of ethical lapses that are intolerable" and "intentionally misled" both her and the public.

The OIG's latest report released Friday details the department's response to the call, saying multiple sworn CPD personnel "failed to effectively carry out their duties" in response to the incident, recommending discipline against six and the firing of a lieutenant.

In July, Supt. David Brown decided to suspend all seven involved for varying amounts of time, the report says.

The OIG's investigation found that the two officers who initially responded to the scene at West 34th Place and South Aberdeen Street in the early morning hours of Oct. 17 "failed to gather the evidence necessary to determine whether the superintendent was fit to drive his vehicle and, therefore, failed to conduct a competent investigation," the report says.

They did not ask Johnson where he was coming from or if he had been drinking, and the report notes that both were probationary police officers who had only three years of experience between them and no prior field experience with a DUI. The report highlighted their pairing as partners as a departmental shortcoming, recommending CPD review officer assignments to pair junior officers with more senior officers in the future.

The OIG also found that two other patrol officers and a sergeant who responded to the scene allowed Johnson to drive his vehicle "knowing he was unfit to drive" and that their decision to follow him home suggested that they knew he was not in any condition to drive, despite one later claiming he "looked normal."

Their decisions "brought discredit" on the department, the OIG ruled, because they "created the impression of giving the superintendent preferential treatment." The OIG recommended discipline against all five.

A lieutenant supervising the initial responding officers watched the footage on one of their body cameras and recorded it on a cell phone in violation of department policy, the OIG's investigation found. That lieutenant then sent it to the district commander and later denied having sent the recording via text message, making false statements in an interview with the OIG, the report states.

The OIG recommended that lieutenant be fired and placed on the department's "ineligible for rehire" list, advising that the district commander also be disciplined for failing to report the lieutenant's violation in creating the unauthorized recording.

Brown chose to suspend the initial responding probationary officers for one day each, the additional patrol officers for seven days each, the sergeant for 14 days and the district commander for 28 days, according to the OIG. With regard to the lieutenant, Brown disagreed with the recommendation and chose instead to issue a 21-day suspension.

The OIG report said of the seven CPD members who responded to the call, only one activated their body camera, recommending the department provide additional training on the use of body cameras and the detection of alcohol impairment.

The footage from the sole activated body camera was released to NBC 5 earlier this year, showing responding officers knock on Johnson’s windows. One of the officers asks if Johnson is alright and if he has his ID.

The video shows the former superintendent placing what appears to be his CPD credentials against the window. One of the responding officers asks, “Do you want to go home?”

According to the report, Johnson replied, “I’m good.”

The officer replies, “You good? All right sir, have a good night.”

The city of Chicago has released body camera footage and other documentation related to the night former police Supt. Eddie Johnson was found slumped over the wheel of his SUV in October 2019. NBC 5's Natalie Martinez has the story.

"While the CPD members on the scene could not have known at the time that the superintendent had consumed the equivalent of approximately 10 alcoholic beverages, the evidence shows that the superintendent had done so, and not a single member detected any signs of impairment or pursued a number of routine steps likely to reveal evidence of alcohol impairment," the report reads.

The report also says an officer who "consumed several large servings of rum while at a restaurant" with Johnson that night, previously identified as a member of his security detail, and later drove home in a city vehicle in violation of Illinois law, Chicago police rules and city policy. For that, CPD suspended the officer for seven days, the report says.

That officer, Cynthia Donald, filed a lawsuit against Johnson and the city on Thursday, claiming Johnson sexually assaulted and harassed her for years as he served in his leadership role.

Donald's suit accuses the one-time highest-ranking officer in Chicago of forcing her to perform sexual acts and sending her nude photos, among other alleged incidents, claiming he "used his position of power and authority... to pressure her into engaging in these sexual acts by conditioning her employment and advancements within CPD upon her submission to unwanted and unwelcomed sexual activity," the suit reads.

Johnson denied those claims in a statement Thursday, saying the allegations "never happened."

"Her claims are not only patently false, they are egregiously dehumanizing towards those who have truly suffered harassment in the workplace and are an affront to everything I believe in and stand for," Johnson's statement reads. "I pray for Ms. Donald's well being and look forward to the opportunity where the facts can be presented."

Lightfoot removed Johnson from his position on Dec. 2, 2019. Johnson reverted to his former rank of lieutenant and resigned from CPD two days later. He is on the city’s ineligible for rehire list.

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