A Black Chicago police officer posted a letter he sent to the police union's president last week seeking to terminate his membership with the union citing multiple comments from the group's leader.
In his letter to Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara, which was posted to Medium.com, Julius Givens starts off proud and complimentary of the union and the city's police department.
"I am proud of some of the progress made over the last year in coordination with the city and the union: better and more frequent real-life training, improved field training officer programs, stress management and counseling for officers and many other improvements that help us best serve the public," he wrote. "Additionally and on a broader scale I’ve known most labor unions of the 21st century to serve the interest of their members and the public. I applaud those organizations and support them. Unions are not obsolete and are needed today to negotiate members wages, health benefits, work conditions, etc. which ensures the well-being of members and their families and retirees after a lifetime commitment in their given profession."
But things take a turn when Givens describes comments from Catanzara on officers kneeling with protesters.
He cites an interview in which Catazara was quoted saying “any member of Lodge 7 who is going to take a knee and basically side with protesters while they’re in uniform will subject themselves to discipline in the lodge up to and including expulsion from Lodge 7.”
Catanzara's comments came as demonstrations against police brutality and racial injustice continue across Chicago and around the world in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25.
"John, I am bewildered that given your position as the leader of one of the most powerful unions in the United States, that you would respond in such a manner," Givens said. "To hear the cry of the people we serve and ignore it is a crime against humanity."
He goes on to cite another interview in which Catanzara called out parents and repeated cries that a lack of time spent in jail has helped spur an increase in violence in the city.
"While I agree that our criminal justice needs major improvements I was dispirited that not one time did you mention decades long policies such as: the war on drugs, redlining, access to quality education and healthcare at all stages of life, and other systematic policies of oppression," Givens wrote. "To ignore these realities, at a time when children are dying in the streets, is to be indifferent to justice."
He goes on to write that, effective immediately, he hopes to terminate his membership with Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7.
"If I require any legal representation with regards to my duties as a Police Officer I will provide those services independent of Lodge 7 moving forward," he wrote.
Catanzara did not respond to NBC Chicago's request for comment on the letter, but did tell the Chicago Tribune "it's [Givens'] choice," though the union president said his stance on kneeling remained unchanged.
The publication reports that Givens would be the only active member of the police department to not have union representation should he follow through with his termination request.