7 Officers Broke CPD Rules After Top Cop Found Drunk, Unconscious Behind Wheel: Watchdog

Video: Body camera footage released by the city of Chicago on Monday, June 29, 2020 shows an Chicago police officer’s encounter with then-Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson, who was found asleep in his car on Oct. 17, 2019.

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Seven officers failed to follow Chicago Police Department rules and procedures after discovering former Police Supterintendent Eddie Johnson apparently passed out in his running car at a stop sign in Bridgeport last year, according to the city’s watchdog.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot fired Johnson after she said he lied to her and the public about the incident.

Inspector General Joseph Ferguson did not conclude in the report released Friday that any of the officers deliberately covered up for the former superintendent. Instead, Ferguson’s investigation found the officers “failed to conduct a competent investigation.”

However, Ferguson’s report details several instances when Johnson got special treatment after being discovered unconscious behind the wheel near 34th Place and Aberdeen Street, in the Deering Police District.

Johnson was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the incident, after consuming the equivalent of 10 alcoholic drinks, Ferguson concluded. In a report released in July, Ferguson found Johnson lied repeatedly about the incident and what happened afterward.

“By allowing the superintendent to drive home despite concern for his condition, the officers failed to promote CPD’s goal of protecting the public and brought discredit on CPD, specifically, because their actions created the impression of giving the superintendent preferential treatment,” according to the report.

While Ferguson recommended that all seven officers his investigation found had violated departmental policy be disciplined, it was up to current Superintendent David Brown to determine their punishment. None of the officers were named by the inspector general, in keeping with his office’s policy.

However, the report makes it clear that Brown, who was picked by Lightfoot to replace Johnson, hit Don Jerome, the commander of the Deering district, with a 28-day suspension for his actions after the incident involving Johnson.

Jerome could not be reached by WTTW News for comment.

Two officers who had just graduated from the training academy — and had never handled a suspected drunken driving incident — were the first to respond to the 911 call, which indicated there was a man asleep in his car at a stop sign.

Those officers did not follow policy and ask the superintendent where he was coming from or whether he'd been drinking, Ferguson concluded.

Brown suspended both officers for one day.

City cameras captured Johnson arriving in the area near 34th and Aberdeen streets at 10:39 p.m. on Oct. 16, 2019. Officers responded to a 911 call about a man asleep in his car at a stop sign at 12:33 a.m. on Oct. 17, 2019, according to the investigation.

Johnson only said two words to responding officers: “I’m good,” according to the footage captured by that officer, which was released by the city in June.

Officers allowed Johnson to drive away 13 minutes after they knocked on the window of Johnson’s CPD-issued SUV, after the former top cop rolled down his window about two inches and flashed his badge, according to the investigation. No chemical or field sobriety tests were performed, Ferguson found.

CPD policy required the responding officers to determine whether Johnson was impaired before allowing him to drive home. That did not happen.

In addition, only one of the responding officers activated their body-worn camera.

Three minutes after Johnson drove away, with officers following him toward his home, Johnson ran a stop sign and made “a slow, wide right turn into the wrong lane” before correcting his car’s path and heading south on Racine Avenue.

The fact that two officers and a sergeant who responded to the incident allowed Johnson to drive home but followed him indicated that they knew he was “unfit to drive,” Ferguson’s report concluded.

The officers were suspended by Brown for seven days, and the sergeant was suspended for 14 days, according to Ferguson’s report.

Ferguson recommended that the lieutenant who supervised the responding officers be fired for recording footage captured by one officer’s body-worn camera on a personal cell phone and sending it to Jerome, the district commander.

That lieutenant made “false statements and material omissions” in their interviews with the inspector general’s office, according to the report.

However, Brown rejected that recommendation and instead suspended the lieutenant for 21 days, saying there was not enough evidence that the lieutenant “willfully” lied about making a copy of the bodycam footage in an interview with the inspector general.

Jerome, the district commander, failed to report that the lieutenant created the copy of the bodycam footage, in violation of departmental policy, according to the inspector general’s investigation.

The inspector general urged the police department to change the way officers are assigned and paired. The two probationary police officers who initially responded to the 911 call should not have been partnered because of their lack of experience.

In addition, officers should be retrained on the use of body-worn cameras to detect drunken driving, according to Ferguson’s recommendations.

In addition, Ferguson urged the department to “strengthen understanding and expectation that situations involving possible legal infractions by sworn personnel by met with the same rigor and standard of care as those involving members of the public.”

In a separate but related finding, Ferguson recommended that an eighth officer be disciplined after they drove a city vehicle after consuming “several large servings of rum while at a restaurant with” Johnson on the night of the incident.

Brown suspended that officer, who was not identified by Ferguson in the report released Friday, for seven days.

However, the report released by Ferguson in July makes it clear that officer was Johnson’s driver. Johnson dropped that officer off at CPD headquarters at 35th Street and Michigan Avenue, where that officer got into their department vehicle and drove away, according to the July report.

Johnson’s former driver, Cynthia Donald, sued the city and the former superintendent Thursday, claiming that for more than three years, she was subjected to “unwanted and uninvited sexual advances” from Johnson inside his office at CPD headquarters.

Johnson’s attorney denied the allegations.

Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]

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