Adrian Harris, CAARPR
It’s no secret. Eddie Johnson was not on the list of candidates for interim superintendent, and reportedly did not even apply for the position. Eager to circumvent the Police Board and rush his pick through City Council, Rahm and the Aldermen who support him have invoked the notion of a “public safety crisis,” and have managed to temporarily nullify city code to allow the appointment of Eddie Johnson as superintendant.
Superintendent Johnson, a 27-year veteran of the CPD, was pushed into his new post by way of a one-time city code change, itself engineered by the Public Safety Committee, which allowed for his appointment by a 50-0 vote by the City Council at large. It has been clear from Johnson’s initial questioning by the Public Safety Committee, through the Aldermen’s press statements after his appointment, that public safety and the reduction of gang violence will be the main angle through which his expedited appointment is explained.
Despite Johnson’s post-appointment references to community reconciliation, his raids over the weekend preceding his appointment as permanent superintendant have garnered the most attention. Targeted by way of registers of gang-related offenders, these raids lead to 68 arrests out of list of 1,300 registered individuals throughout Chicago communities on the South and West sides. Despite Alderman Hairston’s detection of a “new aura” around Chicago police under Johnson’s command, it is clear already that Johnson’s success will still be judged first and foremost by his and his officers’ ability to surveil, repress, and detain. Community engagement will remain somewhere between a media slogan and an afterthought.
We must remind Mayor Emmanuel and his supporters among the Aldermen that the vacancy Johnson has now filled did not become empty due to a crisis in public safety, but rather due to public outrage over police crimes. More specifically, Eddie Johnson’s post was made vacant in a last ditch effort by the mayor to let a head roll after the exposure of the police and government cover-up of the murder of Laquan McDonald by CPD officer Jason Van Dyke. The welled-up civic outrage that this incident unleashed helped get Garry McCarthy fired, but it will not dissipate with the appointment of yet another “tough-on-crime” top cop.
Why would the Chicago communities hit hardest by police crimes and repression trust that any decision forced through by this Mayor and City Council might lead to any real change? Police crimes, from murder and torture, to sexual assault and harassment are constant threats to these communities, just as much as gun violence. From Riverdale to Washington Park, families have been subject to the repercussions of the backwards order in which our leaders have taken care of business for far too long. When political figures choose to undermine the very processes that they are paid to uphold, communities must respond with political ideas and organizations of their own. Just as these Aldermen pushed through hush money for the Laquan McDonald case in a matter of minutes, they have quickly and quietly fallen into line unanimously behind the mayor again. We know that direct political pressure is the only language to which these Aldermen respond.
The Independent Police Review (IPRA), brought into existence by The City Council in 2007 has failed us for almost a decade. Change is inevitable. The Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC), will consist of elected community members from all of the police districts, who will be empowered to hold police officers accountable for the crimes they commit, and to control and decide how their own communities are policed. This ordinance aims to promote more community involvement and dialogue amongst the community leaders and its members with regards to police, and backs this dialogue up with authentic decision-making power. After all, our new interim Superintendent is quoted in saying that, “In the coming weeks and months, I plan on meeting with and listening to a range of Chicagoans — from activists and elected officials to ministers and parents — to find ways that we can come together to build mutual trust and lasting partnerships that will make our streets safer for everyone.” Let us give him something to work with. CPAC plans to be the voice of those families who have yet to be properly represented, who are somehow overlooked in the big picture despite the implementation of IPRA.
Instead of hiring a candidate who demonstrates their abilities through taking the steps necessary for promotion, or one on the ballot for that matter, Rahm handpicked African American Chief Eddie Johnson in efforts to rebuild trust amongst the community and the police, but circumvented every process through which trust might be fostered. This is why CPAC must be enacted. CPAC is necessary not only for holding the police accountable, but also in reinforcing the necessity of democratic practices in city governance. Johnson’s promotion is not a reason to celebrate. His new position only shows just how openly underhanded our leaders and representatives are when it comes to matters involving money, concentrated areas of minorities, and the police.