Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson announced his retirement on Thursday, just three weeks after he was found asleep behind the wheel of his car.
Johnson — head of the nation’s second-largest municipal police force with about 13,500 officers —said he’s proud of his work, but that new leadership is needed.
“It’s time for someone else to pin these four stars to their shoulders,” an emotional Johnson told reporters. “These stars can sometimes feel like carrying the weight of the world.”
He’ll serve through the end of the year.
Johnson, 60, was discovered slumped behind the wheel of his SUV in the early morning hours of Oct. 17 after a motorist called 911, Chicago police said.
A breathalyzer test was not administered at the scene, but Mayor Lori Lightfoot told the Chicago Sun-Times that Johnson had said to her that he had “a couple of drinks with dinner” before the incident.
While Johnson declined to discuss that incident, the superintendent said leading his hometown police force has been a tough job.
“This job has taken its toll — taken a toll on my health, my family, my friends,” Johnson said. “But my integrity has remained intact.”
For the past 3 1/2 years, Johnson’s police force has been fighting — and making some small dents into — into Chicago’s infamous murder rate.
The Second City ended 2018 with 565 homicides, down from 660 homicides in 2017 and 777 in 2016, according to Chicago police data.
Still, those numbers pale in comparison to other large U.S. cities. For example, there were 295 homicides in New York,America’s biggest city, in 2018 while259 people were slain in Los Angeles last year.
Earlier this year, Chicago’s top policeman also had to deal with the case of “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett, who claimed he was beaten up by two masked men who hurled racist and homophobic slurs at him.
Chicago police could not find evidence of the attack and then accused Smollett of pulling an elaborate hoax. Johsnon did not hold back his emotions in ripping the actor.
“I’m offended by what’s happened and I’m also angry,” Johnson said of Smollett on Feb. 21. “I love the city of Chicago and the Chicago police department, warts and all, but this publicity stunt was a scar that Chicago didn’t earn and certainly didn’t deserve. To make things worse, the accusations within this phony attack received national attention for weeks. Celebrities, news commentators and even presidential candidates weighed in on something that was choreographed by an actor.”
Johnson was appointed to his job by then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel when the city was still reeling from the 2014 slaying of black teenager Laquan McDonald by officer Jason Van Dyke, who was later convicted of second-degree murder.
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