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National

Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson Announces Retirement

NOEL KING, HOST:

The Chicago Police Department has a new leader. Charlie Beck will serve as interim superintendent. Beck previously serves as police chief in Los Angeles. In Chicago, he takes over for Eddie Johnson, who's retiring. As Patrick Smith of member station WBEZ reports, Eddie Johnson leaves a mixed legacy and a hard job for Charlie Beck.

PATRICK SMITH, BYLINE: An emotional Johnson announced his retirement yesterday at police headquarters with his family and Mayor Lori Lightfoot at his side.

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EDDIE JOHNSON: It's time for someone else to pin these four stars on their shoulders.

SMITH: Lightfoot and Johnson insist this retirement is Johnson's call alone. But the mayor has been noncommittal about the superintendent's future since she took office in May. And she actually used the presence of Johnson's family yesterday to try and prevent questions about it.

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LORI LIGHTFOOT: This is a day for celebration. And it's a day for remembrance. And I'm mindful of the fact that the superintendent's young son is here.

SMITH: Johnson spent 3 1/2 years as Chicago's top cop and more than three decades with the department. He took over as superintendent during one of the most tumultuous times in Chicago policing history, with the city in the middle of a historic spike in gun violence and reeling from the release of dash cam video showing the police killing of 19-year-old Laquan McDonald. Chicago Alderman Walter Burnett says Johnson should be remembered for holding the police department together when it was in danger of falling apart.

WALTER BURNETT: A lot of police did not want to work, right? They didn't want to do anything because they felt like everyone was against them.

SMITH: But it's not just officers who need their faith restored. Sheila Bedi, a Northwestern law professor, says the next superintendent needs to do more to restore community trust in police.

SHEILA BEDI: It'll be critical that the next leader has some experience with turning around the culture of police departments if we are going to get a handle on police violence and racism.

SMITH: Burnett says most important is finding a superintendent with fresh ideas on combating gun violence. He says in parts of Chicago, people are still living in fear in their own homes. For NPR News, I'm Patrick Smith in Chicago. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.