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Chicago’s 80-strong, Mayor Rahm Emanuel-fronted delegation to see Archbishop Blase Cupich’s elevation to cardinal in Rome counts the city’s top cop Eddie Johnson among its number.
Including Johnson with the political donors and dignitaries taking the charter flight for the ceremony underlines the importance of the moment -- and reflects the personal relationship he shares with Cupich, according to a Johnson spokesman. But it also could end up being bad political optics for the mayor and the superintendent if violence grabs headlines in Chicago while they’re touring St. Peter’s Basilica.
Emanuel has the fight against crime at the forefront of his agenda, trying to overcome the city’s notorious national reputation and repair relations with residents who live in neighborhoods where they don’t feel safe or trust police. Time and again, he has pointed to Johnson’s tireless work as key to that turnaround.
Being out of town at crucial moments has been an issue for Emanuel before. When his school board closed dozens of public schools in 2013, he was vacationing with his family at a ski area in Utah, a fact not lost on his critics.
And when a Chicago police officer shot and killed teenager Quintonio LeGrier and mother of five Bettie Jones on the West Side last December, Emanuel was in Cuba on a family trip. Emails released months later showed the mayor contacting staff from there to keep close tabs on the public fallout from the shootings.
In this case, Johnson’s inclusion in the Rome trip will not compromise the decision-making at CPD, according to department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi. The superintendent is checking in via phone regularly with First Deputy Superintendent Kevin Navarro and other department officials, Guglielmi said.
“There won’t be any breakdown,” Guglielmi said. “The department is bigger than any one individual.” (John Byrne)
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