FOP President on Johnson's Firing: ‘I Did Not Expect This'

Lightfoot said Supt. Eddie Johnson "engaged in a series of actions intolerable for any leader in a position of trust"


Fraternal Order of Police President Kevin Graham said that while he understands Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot's decision to fire Police Supt. Eddie Johnson, he "did not expect this from the mayor." 

"We were expecting the superintendent to retire at the end of the month, so I was very surprised when I got a call from City Hall that he was going to be terminated within the hour," he said. 

And he wasn't alone in his shock. 

In her message to the department and its staff, which was obtained by NBC 5, Lightfoot acknowledged news of Johnson's termination "may come as a surprise to most." 

"This was a decision I felt was absolutely necessary to preserve the legitimacy and honor of the Chicago Police Department," she wrote. "I deeply respect the work that each of you undertake every day and you deserve a Superintendent who lives up to the ideals that I expect each of you to exemplify." 

In a press conference Monday, Lightfoot said Johnson "engaged in a series of actions intolerable for any leader in a position of trust," citing evidence she had reviewed from an ongoing investigation by the inspector general into an incident in which he was found slumped behind the wheel of a car in October.

The termination came one month before Johnson's retirement was set to take effect. 

"This is obviously not a decision that I entered into lightly, however the circumstances demanded these actions," Lightfoot said. 

She noted that Johnson lied to her "several times" when she "challenged him about the narractive that he shared" describing what happened in the early morning hours of Oct. 17. 

Johnson became the center of an investigation after he was found asleep behind the wheel of his SUV at a stop sign in October. 

Lightfoot said Johnson admitted to her that he "had a couple of drinks with dinner." 

Johnson initially said a change in medication triggered the incident and he felt "lightheaded" while driving, but ordered an internal investigation of the incident, citing the need for "transparency."

Lightfoot said Monday, however, that "upon a thorough review of the materials" from the ongoing investigation, "it has become clear that Mr. Johnson engaged in a series of ethical lapses that are intolerable." 

"I've reviewed the inspector general's report and videotape evidence and makes it clear that the only choice that I had to take was the one that I've taken. There's no gray area here," she said. "I saw things that were inconsistent with what he told me personally and what he revealed to members of the public."

Lightfoot declined to offer specifics of the report and its evidence, saying she did not believe it would be "appropriate or fair to Mr. Johnson's wife or children to do so at this time."

"Had I known all the facts at the time, I would have relieved him of his duties as superintendent then and there," she added. 

Area aldermen voiced support for Lightfoot's decision. 

"I think it sends a very good message to the city of Chicago that there is some accountability at play with the administration," Ald. Raymond Lopez said. 

"You tell the boss something that is not true, she has a right to terminate you for it," Ald. Emma Mitts echoed. 

Chicago's interim superintendent, former Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck, will take over the department a month earlier than expected. 

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