Chicago Police

‘There Will Be a Reckoning for the FOP,' Lightfoot Says

The mayor was responding to the Chicago police union president's comments that any officer who kneels with protesters may be disciplined, up to and including expulsion from the union

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Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said "there will be a reckoning" for the city's Fraternal Order of Police when asked about the union president's assertion that officers who kneel with protesters could be kicked out of the union.

"There will be a reckoning for the FOP," Lightfoot said at a news conference Thursday, keeping her response brief. "And I think that moment is now and that's what I'll say about that."

Lightfoot was asked about comments Chicago FOP President John Catanzara made in a Wednesday interview in which he said any officer seen kneeling in solidarity with protesters would be subject to discipline, which could include expulsion from Lodge 7.

"I've made it very clear to the members of Lodge 7 that that has no place for our members," Catanzara said. "That is contradicting to our constitution as a lodge and it definitely deflates anything remotely associated with fraternalism and as such, 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.

"What you do on your time is your time. When you're doing it in uniform, you are representing the police department and as such you are representing yourself as a member of Lodge 7," Catanzara added.

The 25-year veteran of the force, John Catanzara, has had dozens of complaints filed against him in his career. Last week, he defeated incumbent Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #7 President Kevin Graham in a runoff election. NBC 5’s Charlie Wojciechowski reports.

Chicago Police Supt. David Brown took issue with Catanzara's remarks on Thursday as well, pointing to other issues he saw as more important for the department to be dealing with.

"It's just hard to take those kinds of comments serious as we deal with COVID environment, historically high violent crime and now misconduct as relation to civil unrest," Brown said. "How does that bubble up to the most important thing to comment? It's not. I'll answer my own question. It's not as important as what we're dealing with and I won't dignify it with an answer."

Elected to lead the union last month, Catanzara has a long history of controversy and overt political statements. He made headlines in 2017 when he posted a photo to social media in support of President Donald Trump's criticisms of professional football players, including Colin Kaepernick, who knelt during the National Anthem.

Cantanzara was suspended for the photo, as CPD's code of conduct does not allow officers to participate "in any partisan political campaign or activity."

Rep. Bobby Rush announced several Chicago police officers were caught lounging in his campaign office while looters struck area businesses earlier this month.

Catanzara is currently relieved of his police powers and under investigation by the department on allegations related to a 2018 police report he filed against then-police Supt Eddie Johnson. Catanzara accused Johnson of breaking the law by allowing marchers onto the Dan Ryan Expressway during the summer of 2018 to protest city violence.

A 25-year veteran of the force, Catanzara has had dozens of complaints filed against him in his career. He has also been suspended multiple times and two former Chicago police superintendents have independently tried to fire him for separate violations. Both times he was ultimately restored to his position by the Chicago Police Board.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot speaks as images behind her offer a look at footage of officers “lounging” in a congressman’s campaign office as looting took place in the city.

Catanzara leads the union amid contract negotiations and as CPD continues to implement court-supervised reforms based on a 2016 U.S. Department of Justice report found a history of civil rights violations within the department it investigated in the wake of the 2014 shooting of Laquan McDonald.

Several protests in Chicago in recent days have called on Lightfoot to cut funding to the police department and redirect it to other services, an action the mayor has indicated she's not willing to take.

In a television appearance Sunday, she hinted at "monumental reforms" to be announced, taking aim at the FOP as well.

"I’m hoping that we're going to announce soon some pretty monumental reforms that we pushed for and we've won, and to set the stage for what I know is going to be a long fight around police reform," Lightfoot said, highlighting police contracts as "a significant part of the problem."

"We've got to get unions to understand that they've got to be part of the solution, and not part of the problem," she continued.

"First of all, we've got to speak our values through these contracts. We've got to lay out a very clear set of principles around reform and accountability and not allow the extraordinary due process that police officers get to be a road block to accountability," Lightfoot added.

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