Chicago’s former police superintendent due nearly $190,000 annual pension despite being fired

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CHICAGO — Eddie Johnson was unceremoniously fired in December before his planned retirement from his post as Chicago’s top cop, but he still stands to bring in a hefty pension, records show.

Johnson, 59, was fired by Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who said her then-police superintendent had lied to her after a late weeknight out last fall when he was found asleep in his city-issued SUV near his South Side home. But even though the dismissal meant he was not allowed to leave on his own schedule, Johnson’s pension will entitle him to a six-figure income each year for the rest of his life, city records show.

The Policemen’s Annuity and Benefit Fund of Chicago awarded Johnson a monthly pension of more than $15,800, or an annual gross payment of nearly $190,000, according to records obtained by the Chicago Tribune through a request under the state’s Freedom of Information Act.

That annual figure represents 75% of his average salary of just over $253,000 a year during his final four years with the department.

In the end, Johnson’s career turbulence and early exit did cost him.

Since he did not stay on as superintendent until the spring, which would have been his four-year mark as the city’s top cop, he missed out on annual payments of just over $5,200, according to the records. Johnson was introduced by then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel at the end of March 2016 and was confirmed by the City Council the next month.

Johnson fell under pressure in October of last year, when he was found asleep in his running city vehicle near a stop sign close to his home in the Bridgeport neighborhood. While city Inspector General Joseph Ferguson’s office began to investigate the case, Johnson announced in November he would be retiring at the end of the year, short of his fourth anniversary as the department’s leader.

Then weeks before that planned retirement, Lightfoot abruptly fired him on Dec. 2 after she learned that Ferguson’s office uncovered evidence that Johnson had lied about what happened in the October incident.

Pensions for Chicago police command staffers are generally calculated by looking at their highest average salary over their peak four-year period with the department. Those with CPD for at least 29 years, plus one day, are entitled to 75% of that peak salary.

At the time of Johnson’s firing, he was a 31-year veteran of the department, so he had hit the 75% threshold. But since he had served as superintendent for less than a full four years, he missed out on a higher pension.

Johnson’s highest four-year salary period wound up including months he spent as CPD’s chief of patrol, two ranks below the top job.

Still, Johnson received an initial payment of $13,772 at the end of December, records show, and will be collecting $15,812 each month this year.

Then on Jan. 1, 2021, he will be eligible to receive a post-retirement, cost-of-living increase of more than $5,600 for that year, according to the records reviewed by the newspaper. That adjustment would essentially cover the gap created by Johnson’s early departure, though he still will be bringing in less than he would have had he left in the spring.

Johnson did not return messages seeking comment.

Sources have told the Tribune that Ferguson’s office obtained video footage showing Johnson drinking for a few hours on the evening of Oct. 16 with a woman who was on his security detail. The two spent time at the Ceres Cafe, a popular restaurant and bar at the Chicago Board of Trade building.

Johnson, who is married to another woman, was seen on security footage kissing the woman on the detail who is also a Chicago cop, one of the sources said.

Later that night, when officers responded to a 911 call near Johnson’s home, he rolled down the window on his police vehicle partway, flashed his identification and drove off, the sources said.

Ferguson’s office is still investigating the incident, including the conduct of other officers involved in the police response to the call.

After Johnson’s firing, former Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck took over to be Lightfoot’s interim police superintendent. And the Chicago Police Board has been tasked with reviewing applications from 25 candidates from across the country vying to be Johnson’s permanent replacement.

Sources familiar with the applicants told the Tribune last week that the board’s roster of candidates has been whittled down to a handful of names, among them Sean Malinowski, a former LAPD official who has been a top consultant for the Chicago Police Department for the past few years; Ernest Cato, a CPD deputy chief; Kristen Ziman, chief of police in west suburban Aurora; and David Brown, a former Dallas police chief.

In 2016, then-Mayor Emanuel bypassed the Chicago Police Board’s three finalists and had the City Council pass a special ordinance to allow him to hire Johnson as his superintendent, though he didn’t apply for the job. Lightfoot, who was Police Board president at that time, has pledged to make her selection from among the board’s finalists, which could be announced soon.


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