CPD Supt. Eddie Johnson during a Leaders Network meeting in Austin on Nov. 8. | Lee Edwards/Contributor

Chicago Police Department Superintendent Eddie Johnson spoke at the Leaders Network general body meeting, held at Greater St. John Bible Church, 1256 N. Waller Ave. in Austin, on Nov. 8, where he discussed his officers’ use of force in the field, new training procedures and answered questions posed by residents.

Earlier this month, CPD released its newly revised “Use of Force Guidelines,” which detail when a firearm is discharge, when to exercise deadly force, and ways to promote greater transparency among law enforcement professionals and the public, among other specifics.

Johnson said that diversity training will be one of the cornerstones for the change in Chicago’s police department. The city’s top cop said before his tenure as superintendent comes to a close he wants to make CPD a “model for the country”.

New recruits will be the first to take part in diversity training with senior officers to follow, he said. As part of the training, officers will work alongside youth in learning spaces to break down perceived barriers. He promised to let residents know where CPD was throughout the training process.

“People fear things they aren’t familiar with; that’s just human nature, the implicit biases that everyone brings with them on a daily biases, but you don’t hear people talk about that, you don’t hear people talk about racism, because it’s an uncomfortable subject, but we have to address it,” said Johnson. “To pretend it’s not there is doing a disservice to not just the community, but to the department.”

Johnson said if an allegation of cultural insensitivity is made against a police officer, an investigation will take place where punishments will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

“Regardless of what the allegation is everyone — not just the police but an average citizen walking the street — deserves due process, so we’ll wait until the facts of that investigation are thoroughly vetted and once that’s done then the recommendation in terms of discipline is given,” said Johnson.

Johnson also addressed concerns from residents about whether or not his officers follow a code of silence when they are witnesses to their colleagues’ misconduct and abuses of power.

He referenced the now-infamous Rodney King video footage, where Los Angeles police officers were captured assaulting King, as an example of when officers should stand up for defenseless and subdued suspects.

“Now adrenaline is pumping and sometimes you get tunnel vision, but it is my responsibility that if I see that I say, ‘That’s enough’,” said Johnson.

Rev. Ira Acree, co-chair of the Leaders Network, stated the relationship between Chicago Police and West Side residents has been strained over the years, but was adamant about his vote of confidence for Chicago’s finest.

“We have a lot of issues,” Acree said. “We need the police and it’s an honor to have them here. Our conversation with the superintendent was clear. He’s on a mission to change the culture of Chicago Police Department. If that happens for us that would be a great situation.”

He repeated a statement made by Johnson saying, “Chicago Police Department is only as strong as the faith citizens have in it”.

“If we don’t have any faith in the Chicago Police Department they cannot live out their mission,” said Acree.