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Rahm Stands By Choice For Top Cop Despite Investigation Into Fiancee

By  Heather Cherone and Mark Konkol | April 6, 2016 5:41pm 

 Mayor Rahm Emanuel congratulates his new interim police superintendent, Eddie Johnson, as former interim Police Supt. John Escalante (l.) looks on. Former finalist Eugene Williams is at right.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel congratulates his new interim police superintendent, Eddie Johnson, as former interim Police Supt. John Escalante (l.) looks on. Former finalist Eugene Williams is at right.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

NEAR WEST SIDE — Mayor Rahm Emanuel Wednesday vigorously defended his choice to lead the Chicago Police Department, two days after DNAinfo Chicago reported that interim Supt. Eddie Johnson's fiancee was named in an investigation into alleged cheating on the department's lieutenant's exam.

Emanuel said he still backed Johnson despite an ongoing Inspector General investigation into allegations that Johnson's fiancee, Lt. Nakia Fenner, and others had an unfair advantage on the test because they allegedly participated in a study group run by Deputy Chief Eugene Williams, a "subject matter expert" who helped create the exam.

"I'm honored and proud to have nominated [Johnson] as interim superintendent," Emanuel said, adding that he hopes the City Council will move to make the 28-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department the permanent top cop.


Emanuel said the report by DNAinfo Chicago was part of a "game" that involved "innuendo and besmirching people's character" — one that was similar to the political climate that prompted him, in part, to resign in 2010 as President Barack Obama's chief of staff and leave Washington, D.C. to return to Chicago to run for mayor.

Johnson, who was born in the Cabrini Green housing project before moving to Washington Heights, is a "Chicago success story," Emanuel said, his voice rising in indignation.

Emanuel said his choice for top was an "individual of character" and he said he would not participate in questioning Johnson's "character or judgment."

"He has the courage to make the decisions he has to make," Emanuel said.

The same cheating probe that names Fenner helped derail Deputy Chief Eugene Williams' bid to lead the department, sources told DNAinfo Chicago.

Those allegations are the subject of an ongoing investigation by the city's Inspector General Joe Ferguson, sources said.

Williams, one of the Chicago Police Board's three superintendent finalists passed over by Emanuel, was a "senior subject matter expert" who helped create the most recent lieutenant's exam, according to documents obtained by DNAinfo Chicago.

Williams signed a confidentiality agreement promising not to share "any information, ideas, concepts, test questions, etc., with any unauthorized personnel," according to a document obtained by DNAinfo Chicago.


That original complaint filed by the Internal Affairs "confidential unit" in November 2014 questioned whether Williams shared "information that was privileged" about the exam to sergeants in a study group that met at police headquarters. The information would give the sergeants an unfair advantage on the test, according to the Internal Affairs report obtained by DNAinfo.

The study group included Johnson's fiancee, Fenner, as well as Lt. Maryet Hall, who is married to former First Deputy Police Supt. Al Wysinger, who retired last year, and Internal Affairs Lt. Davina Ward, according to the internal affairs complaint.

Emanuel dismissed a question from a reporter about whether Johnson — who did not apply for the department's top job — was properly vetted before Emanuel tapped him to be top cop.

Emanuel didn't give details about what steps his administration took to check Johnson's background. The mayor did say his top cop pick's credentials had been examined and scrutinized throughout his career as he steadily rose through the ranks.

"His whole life has been properly vetted," Emanuel said. "Eddie Johnson's reputation is one of fighting crime."

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