Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson became ill and wavered on his feet during a news conference Friday. The department’s spokesman says he’ll be examined at a local hospital. (Jan. 27)
CHICAGO — The city’s top cop announced Friday that he is in need of a kidney transplant, and at some point will have to temporarily step away from his post to deal with the ailment.
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson detailed his health problems on Friday after a medical episode earlier in the day that occurred in front of reporters. Johnson fell ill during a news conference to discuss new police technology when he became lightheaded and appeared to be on the verge of fainting. The news conference was halted, and Johnson was taken to a nearby hospital for a medical check.
Hours after doctors examined him, Johnson told reporters that the medical episode was caused by him taking blood pressure medicine on an empty stomach, but he also revealed that he was in need of kidney transplant surgery.
The superintendent says he suffers from Glomerulonephritis, inflammation of the tiny filters of the kidney. Once he receives a transplant, he anticipates he will hand over his duties to his first deputy, Kevin Navarro, for about three to five weeks, while he recovers. He confirmed that he was on a waiting list for a transplant.
Johnson said that he first became aware of his condition more than 30 years ago during a medical exam he took to join the force.
“When I was diagnosed, I was 25 years old,” said Johnson, who added he does not take any medication for the ailment and it does not impact his daily activities. “At the time, the doctor thought my kidneys would last three to four years. It’s been 31 years.”
Johnson’s medical issue marks the latest bump for a department that has faced the scorn of President Trump, who has criticized Chicago officials for their handling of a surge in violence. Chicago recorded 762 murders and more than 4,300 shooting victims in 2016 — the deadliest year on record for the city in two decades. The first few weeks of 2017 have also been trying with city tallying 42 murders through Monday, 24% more killings than last January.
Trump earlier this week took to Twitter to warn that he stood ready to “send in the feds” if “Chicago doesn’t fix the horrible ‘carnage’ going on.”
The police department is also reeling after the Justice Department completed a 13-month investigation earlier this month that determined the police department is beset by widespread racial bias, excessive use of force, poor training and feckless oversight of officers accused of misconduct.
The probe in Chicago was launched in December 2015 following the court-ordered release of chilling video that showed a white officer, Jason Van Dyke, fire 16 shots at 17-year-old Laquan McDonald as he appeared to be running away from police during a pursuit.
The McDonald incident spurred weeks of protests in the city, and exacerbated long-standing tensions between the city’s African-American community and police.
Some analysts say the surge in violence in Chicago may partly be due to officers becoming less proactive in their policing out of fear that they may be second-guessed by their superiors and the public.
Johnson was hired last year to replace Garry McCarthy, who Mayor Rahm Emanuel fired in the aftermath of the McDonald video controversy.
Johnson, a veteran Chicago officer, didn’t apply for the superintendent job, but was picked by the mayor after he rejected three finalists culled from a nationwide search by the Chicago Police Board.
The superintendent said he was also hospitalized briefly in November as a result of low potassium levels, but that his condition has not adversely affected his ability to serve as a police officer.
Emanuel said that he was aware of Johnson’s kidney ailment when he hired him.
“I want to say with absolute confidence that under Superintendent Johnson, with the leadership team he has, we have team in place to do this day in and day out on behalf of the people of Chicago,” Emanuel said.
Follow USA TODAY Chicago correspondent Aamer Madhani on Twitter: @AamerISmad
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