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When Your Union Elects A Madman

Chicago Police union elects dangerous teacher-hating Trumper; disgrace to union leaders everywhere

Kris LaGrange's picture
May 11, 2020

Police officers in Chicago have elected a new President of their union, the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7. The new President, John Catanzara, comes with a lot of controversy including allegations of misconduct, and one Chicago union even took the unprecedented step of speaking out against his selection. Catanzara won the election in a runoff, defeating the incumbent President Kevin Graham.

Catanzara is a 25-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department, although since 2018 he has been on desk duty. This was because he has been charged with 50 misconduct complaints during his time with the Chicago PD. They include:

  • Being stripped of his police powers after filing a report against former CPD Supt. Eddie Johnson for participating in a protest with Rev. Michael Pfleger that shut down the Dan Ryan Expressway. The protest was to draw attention to the increasing gun violence in Chicago and led to a showdown on the highway between the State Police and the protestors.  
     
  • Being suspended for 20 days in 2012, when he was found to have been working as a security guard while he was out on medical leave. The department originally recommended that he be fired.
     
  • Reprimanded in 2017 for taking a picture in uniform and in front of his police cruiser with a sign saying “I Stand for the Anthem, I Love The American Flag, I support My President and the 2nd Amendment.”
     
  • In August 2008, then-Superintendent Jody Weis sought Catanzara’s firing on allegations that he did not follow orders to complete a psychological exam, according to Chicago Police Board records. But in February 2009, the board cleared Catanzara in a 5-3 decision.
     
  • He also has numerous personnel violations and is one of the most disciplined officers in the department, even with only working in the office for the past two years
     
  • He has been suspended for over 105 days before he was assigned to administrative duties in 2018

According to the Invisible Institute database, he has received more complaints than 96% of the police force. When he takes over, Cantanzara will be the first Lodge 7 President to have been elected while he was stripped of his policing power.

 He has also worn on multiple occasions a Trump athletic jersey while speaking at public meetings.

Trump has clearly heard about Catanzara’s support, tweeting on Sunday

While there are often political differences between law enforcement unions, which tend to be more conservative, and other, more liberal unions like the teachers, both sides usually refrain from attacking each other. Having a good relationship with the police can often help when you hold a rally or need someone to reach across the aisle for you. Yet the Chicago teachers took the unprecedented step of speaking out against Cantanzara after his election.

Beyond Catanzara’s record of misconduct complaints and his support for Trump, he seems to have an abrasive personality that is sure to rankle some feathers within the Chicago labor movement. In October, as the Chicago Teachers Union was on strike, he posted on Facebook:

He also praised a teacher who decided to cross the picket line and scab.

It would seem that someone interested in running for President of the police union would be looking to make allies with other public sector unions, but Cantazara decided to attack them while they walked the picket line. He has also attacked protestors for not speaking English and thinks the stay at home order is unconstitutional.

While FOP’s don’t usually have bargaining rights, Lodge 7 does, so Catanzara’s first big challenge will be negotiating a contract with Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot after being without a contract for over 1,000 days.

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