Last week, the Chicago City Council voted unanimously to approve Eddie Johnson as permanent superintendent of the Chicago Police Department. Johnson, a 27-year veteran of the force, had previously been serving as interim superintendent — a position to which he’d been selected by Mayor Rahm Emanuel last month, despite not having put in an application for the job.
During an interview on April 13 — the same day a deeply critical report of the police department was released by the Emanuel’s Police Accountability Task Force — Johnson told reporters that he’s “ready to hit the ground running because the crime won’t wait” and that he’s “in it for the long haul.”
Ald. Emma Mitts (37th), who had pushed for former 15th District commander Eugene Williams to get the job, said after listening to the widespread support for Johnson’s appointment, she eventually came around.
But she noted that she expects Johnson to be much more of a presence in the community than his predecessor.
“Former Supt. Garry McCarthy wasn’t that successful because he never came out to our neighborhoods, never got to know the community and tried to rule things from a long range,” she said. “That doesn’t work. I asked Eddie Johnson if he was going to come out in the neighborhood. I wanted to know that before I voted for him. And he said he’s coming out.”
“I do not know Superintendent Johnson that well but I like what I have heard from him and I hope he will have the department pointed in the right direction sooner rather than later,” said Ald. Jason Ervin (28th).
Johnson’s appointment is already being felt on the West Side. According to various media reports, Johnson is considering putting Harrison Area detectives back on the West Side, where they were before bureau was shut down in 2012 as part of Emanuel’s attempts to close a $636 million hole in the city’s budget.
Police department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said Johnson has discussed the possible move with ranking police union members and CPD command staff. Guglielmi said the measure is an attempt to concentrate detectives “in the areas that are experiencing upticks in violence so they can respond quicker to crime scenes,” according to an April 13 Chicago Tribune report.
The Harrison District covers the North Lawndale, East Garfield Park and West Garfield Park communities, where homicides and shootings are up drastically from last year.
The Harrison District “leads the city by far with 26 homicides,” the Tribune notes, “up from just six a year earlier, official department statistics show. Shooting incidents in the district have more than doubled to 126 from 48, according to the department.”
In nearby Austin, “11 homicides were recorded through Sunday, compared with just three a year earlier, the department said. Shooting incidents in the district have nearly tripled from 22 to 60, according to the statistics.”
Wendell Hutson contributed to this report.