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Embattled Police Union Boss Stripped Of Pay While CPD Board Decides Whether To Fire Him

FOP President John Catanzara has been under fire for years, particularly for his inflammatory and obscene social media posts.

Chicago Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara Jr., surrounded by beer- and cigar-wielding constituents, butt heads with activists before the removal of the Christopher Columbus statue in Grant Park early Friday morning on July 24, 2020.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — The Chicago Police Department stripped controversial union president John Catanzara of his pay for at least the next 30 days while he awaits a decision from the Chicago Police Board on numerous misconduct charges that could lead to his ouster from the force.

Catanzara was informed of the decision Wednesday, police said.

Catanzara, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7, is facing 18 misconduct charges filed against him by CPD Supt. David Brown in January. As recently as December, as Catanzara faced firing over his social media posts, Brown had recommended a one-year suspension but was overruled by a member of the police board assigned to review the case.

The misconduct charges include Catanzara’s social media posts as well as allegations of making a false police report, insubordination, using his position as a cop for personal influence and making political statements, among other violations.

Catanzara currently makes $96,060 as a police officer, for which the union reimburses the department for since he works for the union full-time. Even if Catanzara is fired from the department, he can continue to lead the union as a retired officer. 

Catanzara did not return phone calls and texts seeking comment, but told WGN that the board’s decision may help him.

“It’ll probably give me more support with members for being attacked,” Catanzara said. “It’ll piss [police] off more.”

The violations against Catanzara were originally brought by former interim superintendent Charlie Beck but were added to by Brown in late January.

Among the charges are that Catanzara filed a false police report against former police Supt. Eddie Johnson for his participation in an anti-violence march led by Rev. Michael Pfleger that took place on the Dan Ryan expressway in July of 2018. 

Of the 18 charges against Catanzara, 15 of them related to his Facebook posts, many of which used racist and violent language. All the charges against Catanzara are incidents that took place from 2016 to 2020.

Of the three charges not involving social media:

  • One was for an email to Chicago Public Schools officials the police department says characterized the recruitment of African American student-athletes from outside district boundaries as racially motivated and illegal
  • One was for failing to conduct an adequate preliminary and/or official investigation on November 25, 2018 in an incident near the 11th District police station. Catanzara “knowingly generated a case incident report….falsely and/or misleadingly listing Commander Ronald Pontecore Jr. as an offender…and falsely or misleadingly listing himself as Beat ‘801,’ which is a designation reserved for a district station supervisor, and providing personal comments and opinions in such report without a valid police purpose,” the charges state.
  • One was for allegedly listing “former Supt. Eddie Johnson as an offender for criminal trespass to state supported land and/or falsely and/or misleadingly listing himself as Beat ‘0801,’ a beat reserved for a district station supervisor,” according to the charges.

Catanzara’s most recent controversy is for something not included in the charges against him.

On January 6, as rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol being breached, Catanzara gave a live radio interview in which he downplayed the violence and sympathized with the people involved.

His comments drew heavy rebuke from the national police union, which endorsed the former president in the last two elections.

Later that month, 35 aldermen and city Clerk Anna Valencia banded together to demand his resignation. Catanzara admitted to a “lapse in judgment” over the radio interview, but proceeded to file an unfair labor practices complaint against the aldermen. He alleged the aldermen “showed their bias” and in doing so, gave up their impartiality on ratifying a police contract.

Chicago police officers have been working under an expired contract since 2017.

A final decision on Catanzara’ future as a police officer could come within weeks. The police board’s next meeting is scheduled for March 18.  

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