Reform bill hands ‘keys to the criminals,’ Chicago police union president says

Bizar Male

The Illinois General Assembly has “handed the keys to the criminals” and sent Chicago police officers running for the hills with a sweeping reform bill that gave Mayor Lori Lightfoot what she could not achieve at the bargaining table, the police union president said Thursday.

“It was an end-around game for contract negotiations. The Legislature … handed the city a lot of the things they were looking for in contract negotiations, which now made our position much weaker. They did their work for ’em,” said Chicago Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara.

“There’s over 2,500 officers who are 50 years old right now with over 20 years of service who can start collecting a pension tomorrow, and I don’t know what to tell ’em to keep ’em here. There’s no reason for them to stay anymore. … They have just made policing in this city and state near impossible. … You literally just handed the keys to the criminals.”

Lightfoot’s $12.8 billion budget shrinks the Chicago Police Department by attrition, eliminating 614 vacancies. Catanzara predicted a smaller department still won’t keep pace with the tidal wave of retirements. Even officers on the job just five years — and not eligible to collect pension checks — will consider it, he said.

Championed by the Black Caucus, the 764-page bill that landed on Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s desk includes a host of reforms the FOP would never have agreed to at the bargaining table.

Anonymous complaints against police officers would be permitted, stripping away the requirement that accusers sign a sworn affidavit. The process of decertifying police officers would be strengthened. No longer could police union contracts trump the decertification process.

The bill also ends cash bail. Criminal defendants will no longer be required to post any cash bail to be released before trial. The only exceptions would be those defendants whom judges deem a risk to public safety or a risk to flee before trial.

Body cameras would be mandatory for all police officers in Illinois, and officers would be held accountable for turning them on, along with the audio.

“If they feel you intentionally forgot to turn on your body camera for whatever reason they determine, you will not only be fired and decertified. You could be charged with a Class 3 felony. If you make a statement they believe is materially false, intentionally, in their estimation, you can be fired, decertified and charged with a Class 3 felony,” the FOP president said.

Catanzara said law enforcement organizations spent eight months negotiating with Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul on ways to add certain misdemeanors that would be grounds for decertifying police officers and also to create a central database to track wayward officers, only to have the rug pulled out from under them.

“All this shows is their strategy from day one since the mayor took office was to let Springfield try and do their lifting while they ran the clock out,” Catanzara said.

“If we [had gone] to arbitration earlier, it wouldn’t matter. This law still would have taken effect. This tidal wave was coming. Sadly, there were too many spineless politicians in those caucuses who caved in to simple race-baiting and pressure. Literally having the Black Caucus look at legislators and say, ‘If you f—- us on this bill, you will never get a Black vote again. … Shame on them. Everything is race. And it’s disgusting. They guilted people into saying yes. Shame on the politicians for not having a spine.”

Pritzker now has 60 days to either sign the bill, issue an amendatory veto or do nothing, allowing the legislation to become law automatically.

That means Catanzara has a small window to cut a deal with Lightfoot or risk having a contract imposed on him. But he said he won’t accept the city’s economic offer — a 10% pay raise over four years, nearly all of it retroactive. Nor will he agree to the disciplinary and accountability changes that Lightfoot won from an independent arbitrator in the contract for police supervisors.

That award allowed anonymous complaints against police supervisors to be investigated whenever the inspector general, the Civilian Office of Police Accountability or the Chicago Police Department’s Bureau of Internal Affairs determine there is “objective evidence” to support the claim.

The city’s chief labor negotiator, Jim Franczek “can say what he wants” about whether there is a “short window” to reach a deal, Catanzara said, but he added: “He doesn’t dictate my window.”

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