Demoralized Chicago Police officers change union presidents

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With high turnout and low morale, rank-and-file Chicago Police officers decided Wednesday to change union presidents heading into contentious contract negotiations.
With 9,730 votes cast, Police Officer Kevin Graham (left) captured 56.2 percent of the vote to incumbent FOP President Dean Angelo’s 43.7 percent. | File photos

With high turnout and low morale, rank-and-file Chicago Police officers decided Wednesday to change union presidents heading into contentious contract negotiations.

With 9,811 votes cast, Police Officer Kevin Graham captured 56.2 percent of the vote to incumbent Dean Angelo’s 43.8 percent.

The two men faced off in a runoff because none of the six candidates in the first-round race received a majority of the votes cast.

Turnout for the runoff was heavy. A high turnout traditionally signals discontent and spells trouble for the incumbent.

RELATED: Chicago FOP candidate’s suburban home prompts residency ruckus

Graham could not be reached for comment. His election virtually guarantees that contract talks with the city will be even more contentious than normal.

In a statement posted to the Facebook page of his Blue Slate of candidates, Graham called the results a message “loud and clear” from a demoralized rank and file.

Graham noted that he won, even though he was “outspent five to one” and faced “biased election rules” that placed him at a disadvantage.

“FOP members want a Lodge that will fight for them. This was our promise and now we will fulfill it,” Graham, who was sworn in Wednesday, was quoted as saying.

“We look forward to immediately preparing for the upcoming contract negotiations, fighting the anti-police movement in the city and obtaining fair due process and discipline for our members.”

Hours before the results were announced, Angelo was anticipating defeat because of the level of discontent.

“Everyone’s frustrated. Very, very, very frustrated on this job. Morale is at the lowest I’ve ever seen. . . . Sometimes when you get frustrated, you want to make a change just for change sake. If that’s the case, there’ll be a different person representing the FOP,” Angelo said.

“You have a no-one-has-your-back mentality in our ranks more prevalent now than ever before. Media and politicians have demonized this job over the last couple of years. Then they wonder why people in the community don’t want to work with or trust the police,” he said. “How do you trust Satan reincarnated that you’ve created?”

Angelo said he deliberately stayed away from commenting on questions of Graham’s residency, adding, “If he meets the requirements, he meets the requirements.”

He said the issue cuts both ways with the rank and file.

“I imagine it upsets some and I imagine it might please others that want to get out. If this is a trend that we see, maybe more people will take advantage of it. It’s something that comes up on a regular basis when contract negotiation time comes around and we hear about litigation and other cities overturning residency clauses,” Angelo said.

Even before the ballots were counted, Angelo was blaming his defeat on “false narratives” spread by his opponent and the fact that he was too busy to “get out to every roll call” as he did before he was tied down running the union.

He argued that it wouldn’t be the end of the world.

“If I lose, I take a nice long nap. I might get out of town. I haven’t had a vacation in three years. . . . Life would be much more relaxed. It wouldn’t be hard to get used to,” he said hours before the results were announced.

Last week, the challenger blasted Angelo for cooperating with a Justice Department investigation he should have opposed and for encouraging his members to speak with DOJ investigators “without legal representation.”

Graham has also criticized Angelo for signing on to a bill that gave Chicago 15 more years to ramp up to 90 percent funding of the police pension fund and made it clear that he will be far more aggressive and outspoken than Angelo has been.

That could spell trouble for Mayor Rahm Emanuel as he seeks to renegotiate a police contract that, according to the Task Force on Police Accountability report, turned the “code of silence into official policy.”

But Angelo said: “It’s easy to make statements that you’re going to do A, B and C. But when you get in that room, your temperament changes. It’s easy to write on a blog that you’re going to bring down the walls of Jericho. But when you come outside from your keyboard, you don’t have the wind to make a sound through the horn.”

Four months after Angelo took office, a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, shot and killed an 18-year-old black man.

That was just the start of a tumultuous, three-year term that 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 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 pinata for attacks by Donald Trump.

The last police contract — negotiated under Angelo’s leadership — guaranteed labor peace through the 2015 mayoral election and included an 11 percent pay raise over five years.

It included the retroactive pay raise that Emanuel once threatened to deny the rank and file because of a paperwork mistake made before Angelo took office.

Emanuel issued a statement congratulating Graham and commending Angelo as a “forceful voice” for rank-and-file police officers and and retirees “during a time of change.”

“I look forward to working together to address our public safety challenges while ensuring CPD is the most professional and well-trained police force in the country,” Emanuel was quoted as saying.

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