Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot didn't just surprise Chicago when she fired Police Supt. Eddie Johnson Monday - she also surprised much of the city's police force.
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.
Read her full message to CPD below.
Dear CPD members and staff,
This morning I relieved Eddie Johnson of his duties as Chicago Police Department Superintendent. This decision was not made lightly and was precipitated by the findings made by the Inspector General regarding Mr. Johnson’s actions on the evening of October 16th and the early morning hours of October 17th. 2019. Former Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck has been appointed Interim Superintendent effective today. Interim Superintendent Beck will work in close partnership with First Deputy Riccio to manage the day-to-day activities of the Department. Rest assured, the Chicago Police Department is in good hands.
While I recognize this news comes as a surprise to most of you, this was a decision I felt was absolutely necessary to preserve the legitimacy and honor of the Chicago Police Department. 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. I will address command staff later today to discuss my decision and look forward to working with Interim Superintendent Beck and First Deputy Riccio to ensure that the highest standards of ethical behavior are supported throughout the Department.
Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot