Mike Shields is trying to reclaim his job as president of the Fraternal Order of Police — three years after being suspended for making the explosive charge that two police contracts handed down by an independent arbitrator had been “rigged” in the city’s favor.
With homicides surging, police activity plummeting and morale at rock bottom, Shields said Chicago Police officers need a union that has “their back” at a time when local politicians don’t.
Shields maintained that has not been the case under current FOP President Dean Angelo.
“The FOP has turned into a ghost town. There is no response whatsoever . . . There’s a huge false narrative coming from Black Lives Matter, and we don’t hear a single thing in defense of police officers coming from our union,” Shields said.
“Any police shooting right or wrong, you’re getting stripped [of police powers]. The FOP should be stepping up to the plate and defending an officer instead of just allowing the superintendent to do this.”
Shields charged the FOP’s “silence” has left rank-and-file officers with little choice but to remain in a defensive crouch that has all but eliminated pro-active policing. They’re laying back for fear of being caught on the next YouTube video, he said.
“Policemen are calculating the risk of being aggressive based on the superintendent and City Hall 100 percent not having their backs. If they’re not gonna be defended, then it’s not worth putting their homes, their reputations all on the line,” Shields said.
A beat officer on the North Side, Shields was asked what he would do to defend the rank-and-file better.
“I’m more vocal and litigious . . . If the politicians are not backing us, we need to file more lawsuits and force the courts to undo what politicians are doing. Officers are being thrown to the wolves. The Police Board is scared of their own shadow and terminating as many officers as they can, unlawfully,” Shields said.
Angelo accused his predecessor of engaging in the same “type of rhetoric” that has already cost the FOP “six figures” and counting.
The election for a new three-year term as FOP president will be held in March. That’s less than four months before the current police contract expires.
“We’re still working on repairing the damage done by that person . . . Our members know what happened. They lived through that administration,” Angelo said.
“We’ve professionalized this organization. We succeeded in delivering two overrides — not by pounding the table,” but by working with people, he said.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel is under heavy pressure — from the U.S. Justice Department and African-American aldermen and community leaders — to renegotiate a police contract that, critics contend, stands as an impediment to punishing police wrongdoing and restoring public trust shattered by the police shooting of Laquan McDonald.
In 2013, Shields apologized to his members for paperwork mistakes that denied rank-and-file Chicago Police officers their automatic right to a retroactive pay raise.
The mistake gave Emanuel an opening to declare that, if the FOP wanted a pay raise retroactive to June 30, 2012, they’d have to give up something to get it.
When Angelo was elected FOP president in 2014, he set out to chart a new course with Emanuel and urged the mayor to put retroactive pay back on the table as a show of good faith. Emanuel did just that.
The police contract that guaranteed labor peace through the 2015 mayoral election included an 11 percent pay raise over five years. The contract included the 2 percent retroactive pay raise the mayor had once threatened to deny them.
On Wednesday, Shields once again acknowledged the mistake he made and tried to use it to differentiate himself from Angelo.
“At least I had the b—s to actually say that I am ultimately the one responsible for the mistake,” Shields said.
“Dean Angelo gave a pension holiday of $180 million. That was the biggest giveaway in the history of labor. You balance the budget of Chicago on police officers, and he allowed that,” Shields said of the bill that gave Chicago 15 more years to ramp up to 90 percent funding of police and fire pensions.
“When you’re Mayor Emanuel’s friend, you get screwed. And when you’re not his friend, he tries to screw you anyway. Being a suck-hole to the mayor does not benefit Chicago Police officers one bit.”
With the murder rate soaring and the U.S. Justice Department certain to demand more police supervision after a year-long investigation of the Chicago Police Department’s “patterns and practices,” Emanuel has promised to fill hundreds of vacancies and still hire 970 additional police officers over and above attrition.
The two-year police hiring surge will only return a depleted police force to the levels Emanuel inherited. Nevertheless, it marked a stunning about-face for a mayor who has relied on police overtime — to the tune of $116 million a year — in a failed attempt to get a handle on gang violence.
Throughout his tumultuous and abbreviated term, Shields demanded more police hiring. He argued that runaway overtime was no substitute and was leading to police burnout.
How does he feel about Emanuel’s about-face?
“It was penny-wise and dollar-dumb to wait so long to do the hiring,” he said.
“Now, they’re scrambling to hire officers. I’m glad they finally surrendered. But this is something that should have been done years ago, and they wouldn’t have to lower the standards so greatly.”