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The [Wednesday] Papers

"As Interim Supt. Charlie Beck takes the reins of the second largest police force in the country, the department is facing some significant turnover in its top ranks in the wake of former Supt. Eddie Johnson being fired," CBS2 Chicago reports.

"Sources told CBS 2's Suzanne Le Mignot about 20 high-ranking officers are planning to retire. Most of those officers were appointed to their current positions by Johnson, whom Mayor Lori Lightfoot fired on Monday."

Good. That will clear the decks for Beck and Johnson's eventual permanent replacement to at least attempt to build a more reform-oriented command staff - if that's even possible.


"Sources said among those expected to hand in retirement papers include captains, commanders, lieutenants, and deputy chiefs."

The jobs of officers who let Johnson go that night without so much as a breathlyzer or other forms of a sobriety check are in jeopardy, too.

To that point . . .

The Cover-Up

"Multiple Chicago police employees are under investigation for allegedly engaging in a widespread cover-up to protect then-Supt. Eddie Johnson and conceal the circumstances surrounding an Oct. 17 drinking and driving incident that Johnson allegedly lied about, prompting Mayor Lori Lightfoot to fire him weeks before his retirement," the Sun-Times reports.

The alleged cover-up took place "that night and the next day" and could end up being "even worse than" the incident itself, said a source familiar with Inspector General Joseph Ferguson's ongoing investigation.

At first I was going to say this: "I'm not totally sure how the cover-up could be worse than what Johnson did, but this is Chicago so I'll suspend judgement."

But I'm told that what makes the cover-up potentially worse is that it's a systemic failure, while Johnson's actions were those of a single person and a personal failing. So, yes.


"Rather than having 'a couple of drinks' during a 'dinner with friends,' as Johnson told the mayor, sources said the now-former superintendent spent three hours drinking at Ceres Cafe - a restaurant known for pouring large drinks to patrons from the nearby Chicago Board of Trade - with a woman whom he had promoted to his security detail shortly after becoming the city's top cop."

My understanding is that the woman was his driver, irony of ironies if true.


For the record:

Johnson has not been questioned by the inspector general as part of the investigation. Sources said he put off at least two attempts to interview him . . .

Johnson's attorney, Thomas Needham disputed that Johnson put off appointments to speak with the inspector general's office.

"That's not true," he told the Sun-Times.

Needham said the inspector general's office contacted him on the morning of Nov. 7, the day Johnson announced his retirement and asked for Johnson to give a statement that night at 6 p.m. "We declined because we did not think that was reasonable," Needham said.

Needham said he and the inspector general's office went back and forth on scheduling an interview.

"We were totally cooperative. I gave them Friday, Dec. 6, and Friday, Dec. 13. Those were open days. The response was 'No, that's too late for us because we will be done with our investigation.' I said 'I hope your investigation notes that we were not evading you,'" Needham said.



Meanwhile . . .

Look Who's Babysitting
"A high-ranking Chicago police official whom the city's top watchdog once recommended for possible firing for being dishonest with investigators was demoted on Tuesday, officials said," the Tribune reports.

"Grand Central District Cmdr. Anthony Escamilla, whom the city's inspector general accused of misleading investigators about directing on-duty officers under him to babysit his son with special needs, was stripped of his position."

I wonder why he wasn't fired. You lie, you die, right?

"Escamilla was demoted to the rank of captain and will work as an inspector, a supervisor who ensures that officers are wearing proper uniforms and following all other department rules."

Oh. That might be worse than getting fired.


"Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said Beck 'just wanted to go in a different direction' by removing Escamilla. But Guglielmi could not say whether the demotion had anything to do with an investigation showing that Escamilla lied to investigators while accused of directing on-duty officers under him to babysit his special-needs son."

Guglielmi is going to have to go, too, then.


"City Inspector General Joseph Ferguson's office announced in January it recommended possible firing for Escamilla, but Johnson at the time decided he instead be suspended for seven days.

"Johnson has fiercely defended his controversial decision to reporters, sympathizing with Escamilla's situation as a single parent raising a child with disabilities."

Hey Eddie, Escamilla could've just asked help the honest way. But then, so could have Johnson when he found slumped over the wheel. Organizational culture starts at the top, and is largely built around what will be tolerated.


"[I]n a confidential report on Ferguson's investigation - details exclusively reported by the Tribune in February - Escamilla told the IG his actions were not about being unable to care for his son.

"It's not specifically about a situation where someone needs to take care of my family," Escamilla told investigators, according to the 38-page report.

So Escamilla didn't need help after all? Hard to see why Johnson should have a shred of sympathy, then.


"One community policing officer said watching Escamilla's son caused her to interrupt a phone call with a domestic violence victim."

Just like there are myriad reasons to impeach Donald Trump and then remove him for office, there are myriad reasons why Johnson should have been fired (and indeed never hired). Sometimes the final straw isn't the most serious straw, it's just the one that presents such a clear case it can't be avoided. This decision was Johnson's to make, but it sure was a bad one and just one of several that show why he was unfit to serve.


Dead Mom's Checks
"A former Chicago police commander once considered a rising star in the department was spared federal prison Tuesday for pocketing more than $360,000 in his dead mother's Social Security payments over the course of more than 23 years," the Tribune reports.

"U.S. District Judge Manish Shah sentenced Kenneth Johnson to two years of probation and ordered him to serve the first six months in community confinement, likely at a Salvation Army facility in Chicago."

Is that a typical sentence for a crime like this? I wish I knew.


"[Prosecutor Jared] Jodrey also warned that a sentence of probation would send the wrong message to others thinking of stealing from government programs.

"That's not a deterrent. That's more like a court-approved, interest-free loan, courtesy of the American taxpayer," Jodrey said.

You, Jared Jodrey, have just won Today's Best Quote In Chicago.


Letter Press
Now, to today's letters to the Tribune. Joseph A. Murzanski of Palos Heights writes:

I disagree with Mayor Lori Lightfoot's heavy-handed dismissal of Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson. True, Johnson committed a serious offense by what he did and lying about what actually had happened.

But Johnson deserved better. His is a thankless job and during his four-year tenure, he did his best. His unceremonious dismissal does not recognize the dedication he gave. It could have been done with a bit more professionalism and kindness.

Mayor Lightfoot's "schoolyard bully" attitude reminds us of someone else. Eddie Johnson deserves some respect!

Well, Joe, Johnson's retirement was quite ceremonious! He got far more love that day than he deserved.

I also don't find Lightfoot's dismissal of Johnson "heavy-handed." She gave him more than enough time and space to come clean. He is the one who lacked professionalism.

Finally, this.


Harlean Vision of Skokie writes:

Firing Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson, with only weeks to his retirement, raises too many unanswered questions.

One must look at his total record of 30 years of service with the department. He was a very popular officer and the morale of the department will now be tested. One incident shouldn't negate all his years of hard work or tarnish his reputation.

After all, look at Donald Trump. He's lied over 2,000 times, and he's still president



Just Putting This Out There


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Posted on December 4, 2019

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