By Chinta Strausberg, Chicago Crusader
Eddie Johnson was named the permanent Chicago Police Superintendent on Wednesday, April 12. The move came after a blistering report about racial bias in the city’s police force.
In a unanimous vote, the City Council approved Johnson, a 27-year veteran of the CPD. He grew up in the Cabrini Green public housing project. The Council said he is the man who should lead the way to restoring trust.
Johnson was given the interim superintendent’s job by Mayor Rahm Emanuel earlier this month. Now, Johnson will lead an embattled police department that has been under fire following a series of police involved shootings.
Johnson received a lot of support from Black leaders. A coalition of community organizations and retired cops urged the mayor to make Johnson a permanent appointee. Many said there is no reason to look at other candidates because “Eddie’s the man.”
They made their comments during a lengthy press conference held at Josephine’s Restaurant, 436 E. 79th St. over the weekend. They said Johnson has both roots and is respected by people in the community and the rank and file members of the police force.
Pastor John Long from the New Covenant Life Church said Johnson is the best pick to serve the community.
“Who better can penetrate this level and deal with this culture? There needs to be a cultural change in our police department,” said Long, who is a retired sergeant with the Cook County Sheriff’s Department.
Retired Chicago Policeman Richard Wooten said Johnson will help the department move forward.
“We can’t keep dwelling on the past. We got to look into the future. At this present moment, we have the Department of Justice within the department. We have low morale in the department and a trust issue between the community and police. We have all kinds of allegations going on right now. The one thing we need to do is to move on,” he said. “ Johnson has what it takes to move forward.”
Alderman Roderick Sawyer (6th) said, “People are appreciative of the pick of Superintendent Johnson. Let’s move forward. Now that the choice is known, I expect to see a lot of the other candidates withdraw their nominations regarding their consideration and letting this process move forward.” Sawyer said.
Carl Wilson, president of the Block Club Advisory Council in Chatham, said, “I remember when Eddie Johnson came to the 6th Ward. It was like night and day. All of a sudden opportunities opened up. It was a more people friendly place to go to. You didn’t have to worry about getting your head snapped off when you were coming in to report crime. He was just more accessible.
“He is the man for the moment right now, and you need Eddie Johnson as the superintendent. He knows what to do. He did it for the 6th District, and he will do it for the city of Chicago. Crime will come down when you have accessible police. We stand by his appointment.,” said Wilson.
Victor Love, co-owner of the restaurant and president of “Breaking Bread” and the “79th Street Business Corridor Association,” said “everybody agrees Johnson is the right pick even though the process wasn’t respected. We have to move forward with tackling these issues we have in our community.” Asked if he is concerned about the revolving door of top cops, Love said, “No, because you got to keep doing it until you get it right and he (the mayor) has got it right….”
Jerald Gary, chairman of the Chicago Regal Foundation, said what the city needs is an “ambassador who has a track record of being in the community, who can interface with the community and the police department and re-strengthen that bond.”
Johnson has plenty of work to do. This week, the Police Accountability Task Force released a report that says the Chicago Police Department must acknowledge its racist past and overhaul its policing in order for reforms to take place. Emanuel later agreed with the report.
City Editor Erick Johnson contributed to this report.