Chicago police union chief to retire amid board hearing
CHICAGO (AP) — The head of Chicago’s largest police union said Monday he’ll retire from the department amid a disciplinary hearing that could have ended with his firing.
John Catanzara, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7, said he felt the outcome of the proceedings against him was predetermined, the Chicago Tribune reported. The Chicago Police Board hearing centered on his past conduct, including allegedly making offensive statements on social media.
“It was pretty evident very early on that this cake was already baked,” Catanzara said, “I am going to be at HR first thing in the morning, and I am going to be retiring. I will no longer be a Chicago police officer. … No one will be able to touch me, not you, not this police board.”
Earlier, during his testimony, Catanzara had said: “I don’t deny that the language used would be categorized as crass or vulgar to many people, but if that was a fireable offense, our mayor would be fired.”
The hearing was expected to last three days. But the Chicago Sun-Times reported that if Catanzara retires, Lauren Freeman, the hearing officer overseeing the case, said the case will be closed.
Catanzara has often clashed publicly with Mayor Lori Lightfoot. He faced harsh criticism earlier this year for initially downplaying the violence during the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S Capitol and more recently comparing the city’s employee vaccine mandate to Nazi Germany.
Catanzara apologized after making those statements, saying he expressed sympathy for those who stormed the Capitol before he knew the extent of the damage. He also apologized for the Nazi reference and said that he was not trying to compare “forced vaccinations to the atrocities of the Holocaust.”
Before he was elected FOP president last year, he was stripped of his police powers after he filed a report against former Police Supt. Eddie Johnson.
More recently, Supt. David Brown filed charges against Catanzara for a series of statements on social media and other actions. According to the charging document filed with the city’s police board, Catanzara posted a number of offensive and profane statements, expressing support of killing people and referring to Muslims as “savages (who) all deserve a bullet.”
The document also alleged that Catanzara, a vocal supporter of former President Donald Trump, violated department policy by expressing his political views while on duty — something he did in 2017 in full uniform. His support caught the attention of Trump, who tweeted his congratulations when Catanzara was elected president of the union.
As a police officer, Catanzara, since he joined the department in 1995, has been the subject of 50 misconduct complaints — 10 of which have been sustained — according to a database maintained by the Invisible Institute, a journalism production company in Chicago.