The Fraternal Order of Police is crying foul over a direct mail piece distributed by a candidate for 2nd Ward alderman that shows a campaign staffer impersonating a Chicago Police officer.
Attorney Alyx Pattison is trying to stand out in a crowd of six candidates vying to replace Bob Fioretti in a completely redrawn ward that snakes through eleven different neighborhoods in one of the most bizarre configurations Chicago has ever seen.
But the FOP and the union’s rival candidate say Pattison has gone too far by distributing a slick mailer promising to make crime prevention her “top priority.”
It shows Pattison talking to a man who, at first glance, appears to be a uniformed Chicago Police officer in front of a marked squad car.
But a closer look shows that the uniform does not measure up to Chicago Police Department standards. The “uniform” cap lacks the proper insignia. The vest is not lined with armor. And the utility belt that on-duty police officers are required to wear is missing.
The staffer was identified by a rival campaign as John DiFrancesco. DiFrancesco is not a city employee.
“If he is an impersonator, he should prosecuted for breaking the law,” FOP recording secretary Greg Bella wrote in an email to the Chicago Sun-Times.
“To wear the CPD uniform is earned, as is the FOP endorsement. Bita Buenrostro earned the endorsement of the FOP. We don’t take this lightly and condemn any candidate that would violate the public trust.”
Buenrostro was even more incredulous.
Noting that impersonating a police officer is a Class 4 felony, Buenrostro demanded to know where the uniform was purchased, whether laws were violated in that purchase and whether Pattison’s campaign fund picked up the tab.
“It is egregious that she would dress up one of her staffers in order to trick voters,” Buenrostro was quoted as saying in a press release.
“As the proud spouse of a [20-year veteran] Chicago Police officer, I am saddened to see such tactics used for personal gain. It is out there now, though. Thousands of voters received it. And they will have to decide whether they can trust her or not.”
Kurt Kaner, the chairman of Gold Star Families whose own father was killed in the line of duty, branded the Pattison mailer a distasteful “farce” and “disrespectful all the way around.”
“To hatefully stage someone on your campaign as a police officer — there is just no need for that and it really shows what kind of candidate she is,” Kaner was quoted as saying.
“I don’t know where they got the Chicago Police patch, but it is definitely concerning. When you are dressed like a police officer and standing next to a police car, what if someone needed help?”
Pattison’s campaign manager Nick Giannini sloughed off the police impersonation charges as much ado about nothing.
“If our opponent’s claim is taken to its logical conclusion, it would mean that every person who dresses as a police officer on Halloween is committing a felony. Additionally, the charge is hypocritical because the candidate making the accusation has used a picture of a police officer in her own advertisements,” Giannini said in an email.
“The statute referenced in the press cites a section title ‘False personation; solicitation.’ The entire section relates to commercial solicitations. The purpose of this mailer was for political communication and not commercial solicitation.”
The mailer includes the photo of Pattison and the staffer dressed in a police uniform and states: “Alyx believes that nothing is more important than tackling crime in Chicago and getting dangerous weapons off our streets. She supports videotaping all gun sales and will closely monitor the budget to make sure the Chicago Police Department is fully funded across the city to deter crime and respond quickly to illegal activity.”