Amid surging violence and plummeting police activity, demoralized Chicago Police officers couldn’t decide Friday who should lead their union.
Fraternal Order of Police President Dean Angelo failed to get a majority of the vote in the six-way contest for the union’s top leadership post.
He now faces a run-off against Patrol Officer Kevin Graham.
Former FOP President Mike Shields failed to place in the top two. Shields was trying to reclaim his old job three years after being removed from office. The other candidates were Detective Gerald Cruz and Patrol Officers Brock Merk and Jim McGuire.
Angelo wound up with 34.8 percent, and Graham got 24.8 percent.
Claiming a majority of the votes was too tall an order, considering the level of discontent and the upheaval of the last three years.
It included the police shooting of Laquan McDonald; the firing of Police Supt. Garry McCarthy; scathing indictments of the Chicago Police Department by the Task Force on Police Accountability and the U.S. Department of Justice and Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s decision to acknowledge a “code of silence” that has some police officers covering up the wrongdoing of colleagues or turning a blind eye to it.
Homicides and shootings have skyrocketed while policy activity plummeted as officers laid back, concerned about being captured on the next YouTube video. That made Chicago the murder capital of the nation and a political piñata for attacks by Donald Trump.
“It’s been a term of turmoil. It’s been a term of difficulty for the membership. Is everybody pleased as punch? Absolutely not. We understand that,” Angelo said Friday.
“My son is on this job. My daughter is in the academy. My father is a retiree. … This means a lot to me to have had the privilege to serve, even under these trying times. I’m glad it was me sitting in that chair for the last three years. … Have we done everything perfectly? No. But, have we done everything that came on our plate? Yes. We took care of a lot of issues … under a very stressful time and difficult time for law enforcement in this country and in Chicago.”
Angelo acknowledged that he inherited a “pile of you-know-what” from Shields, who made the explosive charge that the last two police contracts dictated by an independent arbitrator were “fixed” in the city’s favor.
In 2013, Shields apologized to his members for paperwork mistakes that denied rank-and-file police officers their automatic right to a retroactive pay raise.
When Angelo was elected in 2014, he urged Emanuel to put retroactive pay back on the table as a show of good faith. The mayor 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.
Shields has accused Angelo of doing too little to counter, what Shields called the “false narrative coming from Black Lives Matter.”
“Any police shooting right or wrong, you’re getting stripped. The FOP should be … defending an officer instead of just allowing the superintendent to do this,” Shields has 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.”
On Friday, Angelo argued that he has done more media interviews in defense of police officers than any president in FOP history. He condemned the confrontational style that nearly cost rank-and-file police officers their retroactive pay raise.
“If you kick ‘em in the shins, they won’t answer their phone. Anybody who thinks you can get things done by boxing every time you walk out the door is completely out of touch,” Angelo said.
“This isn’t Christmas morning when you’re five years old and expect everything on your Christmas list. You need to grow up. You need to play in this game as a professional. You need to lead an organization [in a way] that betters the membership as opposed to putting them in a no-win situation.”
Angelo was asked what it will take to convince Chicago Police officers to be aggressive again.
“They need organizational and political support to be assured that they’re not going to lose their job for doing their job. That’s the fear these officers have. I can get fired or suspended for doing my job,” he said.
“They’re being told what to do as far as street stops. That’s why they’re down. They’re following policies the politicians and the ACLU have laid out for them. They’re doing … what they’re told to do by those who have kind of changed policing in Chicago for politics. They’re building platforms that are anti-police, instead of platforms that are anti-crime. That’s dangerous. We can see the result of that.”
Whoever wins the runoff, which will be held within 30 days, will be asked to negotiate a new police contract amid pressure to remove hard-fought union protections that, Task Force on Police Accountability report said, turns the “code of silence into official policy.”