Two members of the Chicago Police Department who left during Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration have joined Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson’s transition team to advise him on issues of public safety.
Brendan Deenihan, the former chief of detectives, will serve on Johnson’s transition team. Deenihan resigned from the beleaguered department weeks before Lightfoot lost her bid for reelection in February, after serving as one of the most visible police officials for more than three years.
Johnson also tapped Robert Boik to help lead the transition team’s public safety subcommittee. The former head of the department’s Office of Constitutional Policing and Reform, Boik was fired by former Chicago Police Supt. David Brown in August 2022, days after Boik warned that Brown’s decision to move 46 employees to patrol shifts would violate the court order requiring the department to reform itself, known as the consent decree.
Johnson has vowed to take a more “holistic” approach to public safety by addressing the root causes of crime and violence by increasing funding for youth employment programs and expanding mental health services across the city. Johnson has also promised to solve more crimes by adding 200 detectives to the Chicago Police Department.
“This group of extraordinary leaders reflects the diversity and vibrancy of our city and will help lay the foundation for the work of our administration,” Johnson said in a statement. “I look forward to hearing from our transition committee and subcommittee chairs as we establish our policy priorities for the next four years and beyond.”
After touring the Mid-America Carpenters Union training facility on the border between Pilsen and Chinatown, Johnson told reporters that the selection of Deenihan and Boik reflect his “commitment to building a very diverse, eclectic set of leaders who love the city of Chicago and the people of Chicago.”
Since being electing approximately three weeks ago, Johnson said he has met many people who want to serve the people of Chicago.
“There have been a number of individuals that I have met over the course of these last three weeks, it feels like it’s been a little bit longer, but over these last three weeks who have demonstrated an eagerness to serve,” Johnson said. “They have repeatedly said, or they’ve asked, ‘How can we help?’ And Brendan [Deenihan] asked that, and this how he can help,” Johnson said.
Johnson’s first task as mayor will likely be to pick a new leader for the Chicago Police Department. Brown resigned after Lightfoot lost, only to have his replacement — interim Supt. Eric Carter — announce his last day would be Johnson’s first as mayor. Deenihan, deeply respected by other members of the Police Department, has been mentioned as a potential top cop.
Johnson said he has had “fruitful conversations” with police brass, and planned to have more conversations before reaching a decision about who should lead the department.
“I fully suspect that the number of people who have expressed interest in serving this capacity, that the people of Chicago are going to be very comfortable and just as important the rank-and-file members will know that the fifth floor has their back,” Johnson said, vowing to demonstrate that he and his administration understands the danger they face on the job as well as the responsibility they have to the people of Chicago.
One of those people to express interest in leading the Chicago Police Department is former Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson, who was fired by Lightfoot in 2019 after she said he lied to her after apparently passing out in his running car at a stop sign in Bridgeport after a night of heavy drinking with another officer assigned to work as his driver.
That officer, Cynthia Donald, sued the city and the former superintendent, claiming that for more than three years, she was subjected to “unwanted and uninvited sexual advances” from Johnson inside his office at Chicago Police headquarters.
After praising Johnson’s long career with the department, the mayor-elect said “people expect leadership to reflect the best part of our value system.”
“I cast no judgement on anybody, not even the former superintendent,” Johnson said.
As Johnson picks an interim superintendent, the search for a permanent top cop is led by the Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability. Candidates have until May 7 to submit their applications, and the commission has until July 15 to send three finalists to Johnson.
Johnson said again Thursday he hopes to promote a current member of the Chicago Police Department.
“I’m confident that we have individuals that can rise to the ranks of being superintendent,” said Johnson, adding that he is not ruling out an outsider.
The transition team and its 11 subcommittees, made up of representatives of Chicago’s business, activist, and government communities, will craft a written report Johnson said he would use “to shape and guide the work of the new administration.”
The team, led by University of Illinois at Chicago Professor Barbara Ransby and Charles Smith, an insurance executive, will have to work fast — Johnson is set to take office in 18 days.
“I will do everything in my power to seize that moment to deliver as much as possible for people across Chicago, especially those who have been historically marginalized and ignored,” said Ransby, who is also an activist, journalist and author.
Smith vowed to increase opportunities for businesses owned by women as well as Black, Latino and Asian American owned firms to boost economic development across the city.
Ransby and Smith will be joined by U.S. Rep. Delia Ramirez, who was the highest-ranking elected official to endorse Johnson on the day he announced his underdog campaign for mayor.
State Rep. Kam Buckner, who ran for mayor and finished in sixth place before endorsing Johnson in the runoff, will serve as a co-chair for the transportation subcommittee as part of Johnson’s transition.