Black clergy finally meet with police chief

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Pastor Marshall Hatch and Superintendent Eddie Johnson

Crusader Staff Report

With an investigation of Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson underway, Chicago’s Black clergy on Wednesday, October 23 finally met with the city’s top cop after years of waiting.

In a closed-door meeting, Pastor Marshall Hatch and a diverse group of clergy met with Johnson to discuss a controversial report released by Inspector General Joe Ferguson.

In addition to Hatch, other clergy attending the meeting included Bishop Larry Trotter, Pastor Walter Turner, Rabbi Max Weiss, Rabbi Seth Limmer, Pastor Cy Fields, Pastor Roosevelt Watkins III, Pastor Leslie Sanders, Pastor John Collins and Reverend Scott Onque.

According to the report, Johnson as chief deputy viewed the infamous dashcam video of Officer Jason Van Dyke shooting Laquan McDonald 16 times. The report said Johnson viewed the video with other top CPD officials and said nothing when they concluded that the shooting was justifiable.

While some aldermen have called for Johnson’s resignation, many Black aldermen have stood behind him since the report was released. However, the city’s Black clergy remain skeptical of the superintendent. They say they waited for years to meet with Johnson, whom they supported for the top job after his predecessor Garry McCarthy was fired a week after the McDonald video was released in 2015.

For some Black leaders, the report confirmed long-held suspicions of Johnson’s involvement in the meeting.

“[A]Review of the IG report reveals that we have a mighty long way to go to build community trust in the CPD. In light of what we have read, the question is whether Eddie Johnson is part of the solution or part of the problem,” said Reverend Marshall Hatch of New Mount Pilgrim Church in West Garfield Park.

Bishop Larry Trotter of Sweet Holy Spirit Church said, “Without transparency there can be no justice. I had such high hopes when Eddie Johnson became superintendent, but the revelation of the inspector general’s report is a tragic disappointment.”

Pastor Scott Onque of St Luke Baptist Church said, “It appears that Johnson was a pivotal player in upholding the blue code of silence that he claimed to be unaware of his entire police career!”

Johnson remained publicly silent about the shooting during his term as police superintendent. He moved to fire Van Dyke, who officially resigned two weeks ago, one day before the Chicago Police Board was set to decide whether to terminate him.

Van Dyke in 2018 was convicted of second-degree murder and is spending nearly six years in jail.

In response to the report Johnson said, “I never thought and I never said the shooting of Laquan McDonald was justified. What I will say today is that the incident was clearly a tragedy. It was devastating for the McDonald family. It was devastating for the Chicago Police Department, and it was devastating for the city of Chicago.”

Most Black aldermen remain supportive of Johnson, but many agree that he should have said something after he watched the video.

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