CHICAGO — Eddie Johnson, who took over Chicago’s Police Department at a time of cratering public confidence and a spike in homicides, announced his retirement Thursday, saying at an emotional news conference that after 31 years of police work, “It’s time.”
Johnson, a native of Chicago who spent his entire career in the department, stabilized a city and a department that were in crisis after the murder of Laquan McDonald, a black teenager who was shot 16 times by a white officer.
With Mayor Lori Lightfoot and his family at his side, Johnson said he had worked to overhaul a department whose institutional failures he had witnessed since he was a child growing up in public housing.
Chicago becomes the latest in a series of large cities this year to see turnover at the top of its police department. The Philadelphia police commissioner abruptly resigned in August; the chief in Charlotte, N.C., announced plans to step down; and a new commissioner was appointed this week in New York City.
During more than three years in charge of the country’s second-largest municipal police force, Johnson led an overhaul in training, introduced more restrictive rules for when officers could use force, and guided the department into a court-enforced consent decree. After a dramatic rise in homicides early in his tenure, the murder rate had steadily dropped.
But he faced mounting problems. He requested an investigation of himself last month after being found asleep in a parked SUV. Johnson blamed the episode on medication, but Chicago’s mayor said he had been drinking.
Days later, the superintendent lost a vote of no-confidence by leaders of the city’s main police union.
Johnson said he would stay on until the end of the year. His departure leaves the city and its new mayor, Lightfoot, facing difficult choices on what type of leader to select for a department that has faced intense criticism over crime levels but also distrust from residents.