CHICAGO (CBS) -- Mayor Rahm Emanuel formally appointed Eddie Johnson to serve as interim superintendent of the Chicago Police Department at a news conference Monday afternoon.
Johnson replaces Interim Superintendent John Escalante, who took over the department after Garry McCarthy was fired last December following the release of dashcam video of the Laquan McDonald shooting.
"I am proud to wear this star; and I am absolutely, absolutely confident that we can meet this challenge," Johnson said.
Emanuel says he picked Johnson in response to police and community requests.
"Came back consistently: we would like somebody from Chicago, we would like somebody who knows the police department and knows the city, somebody who has the values to build our department, and has the trust of the department. His name is Eddie Johnson," Emanuel said.
Eddie Johnson's dual task: restore morale among cops and trust from citizens, both fractured by the Laquan McDonald shooting and revelations of other questionable police shootings.
"These incidents, no matter how isolated, undermine our entire department and our relationship with the community. We have to own it and we have to end it," Johnson said.
Johnson said there would be no tolerance for police misconduct or for sabotaging of equipment.
The mayor says Johnson has the support of street cops and will earn the support of ordinary citizens.
"He's well respected within the department and among all the rank-and-file officers that I have spoken with," Emanuel said. "He will have their backs when they do their job well and he will hold them accountable when they do not."
On the gang members terrorizing Chicago neighborhoods, Johnson said, "They are destroying our communities, they are destroying families and it has to stop."
The move to appoint Johnson surprised many, as Johnson was not included in the Chicago Police Board's list of three finalists after a nationwide search and Johnson did not submit an application.
"I've never applied for any position. I kind of went where I was told to go, and did it to the best of my abilities," Johnson said.
By law, the mayor is supposed to pick from the Police Board's candidates. Emanuel said he will call for a new search and Johnson said he would submit an application once the search is reopened.
Johnson also said he did not apply for the job because he wanted to support Escalante, who was applying to be the permanent superintendent.
Emanuel said he interviewed each of the three candidates put forward by the Police Board before deciding on Johnson. The mayor also said he only offered it to Johnson, contradicting reports over the weekend that he offered it Cedric Alexander, public safety director of DeKalb County, Georgia, who was one of the three finalists.
In a statement, Police Board President Lori Lightfood said, "Today, the Chicago Police Board received formal notification of the Mayor's decision to not appoint any of the three finalists for Superintendent previously provided by the Board and to appoint Eddie Johnson as the Interim Superintendent. We will convene as a Board as soon as we are able and decide appropriate next steps. While we appreciate that this is a topic of great importance and interest, the Board needs to take the time necessary to make the best decision possible given the importance of this issue for our City. Until that time, we will have no further comment."
Both the City Council's African American and Latino Caucuses announced their support of the mayor's pick.
Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th), who chairs the City Council Black Caucus, said Johnson was a district commander in his ward, and is well-known and respected.
"I've had opportunity, multiple opportunities, to speak to Eddie Johnson on a variety of issues. I believe that if he's given the opportunity and given the resources and the leverage that he needs to do things in the department, I think he will do them. We think he's a gentleman that can do them," he said.
Ald. George Cardenas (12th), chair of the Latino Caucus, who had previously said current Interim Supt. John Escalante should get the job full-time, nevertheless agreed Johnson fits the bill for what's needed to run the Police Department.
"When you have African Americans and Hispanics working together, and the mayor taking that advice, and pushing that out with the best candidate, how can we not support that?" he said.
Cardenas said Latino police officers he has spoken to have praised Johnson.
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