CHICAGO (CN) – Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson delivered an emotional retirement announcement Thursday after serving for three years as the Windy City’s top cop.
“It’s time for someone else to pin these four stars on their shoulders,” the choked-up superintendent said at a press conference.
“These four stars sometimes feel like carrying the weight of the world,” he added. “This job has taken its toll, but my integrity remains intact. I hope the example I’ve set inspires someone.”
Citing a trip to London with his family, who surrounded him Thursday, Johnson said he “felt like a normal person again” and knew it was time to take a “breather.”
On the force since 1988, Johnson, 60, was appointed in 2016 by former Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who announced his own retirement last year, several months after he fired Garry McCarthy from the top police post amid the scandal over the fatal shooting of black teenager Laquan McDonald.
When Johnson took over, the Chicago Police Department was in rough shape, dealing with fallout from both the killing of McDonald and other officer-involved shootings.
The homicide rate in 2016 was at a several-decade high, and public trust in the police department was at a low.
Adding fuel to the fire, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a scathing report in 2017 detailing the department’s use of excessive force, abuse of power, racial profiling and lack of accountability.
A court-supervised consent decree, forcing sweeping changes onto the department, was finalized last year.
Johnson said Thursday that he has been making headway throughout his tenure as superintendent, which he started during “a tumultuous time for CPD.”
Police shootings are at their lowest level in a decade, he said, down 80% since 2009, and he has worked towards more community involvement and officer education.
Chicago’s murder rate has decreased 31% since 2016, and Johnson said summer shootings are down about the same amount since just last year.
According to the mayor’s office, total shootings are also down 38% since Johnson took charge.
Johnson said he’s been no stranger to gun violence and police brutality, growing up in the now-demolished Cabrini Green housing project before moving to the city’s South Side.
“I could have easily learned to hate this city,” he said. “But my parents taught me to love it.”
“This is my home and it’s the only home I’ve ever known. I wanted to keep Chicago safe,” Johnson continued. “I’m thankful to the people of Chicago for trusting me with their safety.”
Mayor Lori Lightfoot, meanwhile, said Thursday “it’s a tough day, but it’s a good day.”
“Chicago is better because Superintendent Eddie Johnson calls our city home and he dedicated his life to serving it,” the mayor said, adding that “under his watch CPD has made crucial reforms.”
Johnson has also faced health issues over the past several years, undergoing a kidney transplant with a donation from his son in 2017.
Just weeks ago Johnson was found asleep in his parked car by a police officer, saying he became dizzy after a dinner and pulled over. The superintendent later admitted to the mayor that he’d had a couple of drinks but blamed forgetting to take his blood pressure medication on what happened.
The Independent Office of the Inspector General is looking into the incident, although both Johnson and Lightfoot have brushed off its significance. They refused to take questions about the investigation Thursday.
Lightfoot, who has known Johnson for years as president of the Chicago Police Board and a member of the Police Accountability Task Force, said she will be appointing an interim replacement in the next few days.
The Chicago Police Board will also begin the search for a permanent replacement. Johnson will remain superintendent through the end of the year.