Police union slams co-chair of new panel reviewing CPD use-of-force policy

FOP President John Catanzara took issue with remarks by Arewa Karen Winters, great aunt of Pierre Loury, who was killed by Chicago police in 2016. Winters called officers “psychopaths with guns.”

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Mayor Lori Lightfoot speaks during a press conference at City Hall to announce the city’s new Use of Force Working Group, designed to to review the Chicago Police Department’s policies pertaining to use of force, Monday morning, June 15, 2020.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot speaks during a press conference at City Hall to announce the city’s new Use of Force Working Group, designed to to review the Chicago Police Department’s policies pertaining to use of force, Monday morning, June 15, 2020.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

A new group appointed to review the Chicago Police Department’s use-of-force policy came under immediate fire Monday after its community co-chair referred to police officers as “psychopaths with guns.”

Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara demanded the resignation of co-chair Arewa Karen Winters, saying her remarks make it clear the working group will be little more than a kangaroo court.

Winters’ fiery rhetoric dominated a City Hall news conference called to announce the 20-member group Winters will co-chair along with CPD Deputy Chief Ernest Cato, one of three finalists for the superintendent’s job that went to retired Dallas Police Chief David Brown.

Winters is a leader of Justice for Families and The 411 Movement for Pierre Loury. She is the great-aunt of Loury, and formed the latter group after Loury, 16, was killed by Chicago police in April 2016.

Loury’s mother sued the city that same month.

Arewa Karen Winters, of Justice for Families, speaks during a press conference at City Hall to announce the city’s new Use of Force Working Group, designed to to review the Chicago Police Department’s policies pertaining to use of force, Monday morning, June 15, 2020. Winters will co-chair the Use of Force Working Group, alongside the police department’s Area 4 Deputy Chief Ernest Cato III.

Arewa Karen Winters, of Justice for Families, speaks during a press conference at City Hall to announce the city’s new Use of Force Working Group, designed to to review the Chicago Police Department’s policies pertaining to use of force, Monday morning, June 15, 2020. Winters will co-chair the Use of Force Working Group, alongside the police department’s Area 4 Deputy Chief Ernest Cato III.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

She began: “Good morning to my beautiful, broken city” — then blamed police for doing the breaking.

Winters said she was “incensed” by video of a woman and her daughter being dragged out of their car by Chicago Police officers at the Brickyard Mall and by video of another one of her “liberated sisters” being cursed and beaten along with the woman’s daughter during a “peaceful protest.”

She noted Chicago Police Board president Ghian Foreman “was beaten and is now himself a survivor of police violence” and that the officer who killed 15-year-old Michael Westley in 2013 was never fired.

“Other cities are firing them and, here, they get 30 days desk duty and then they’re returned back to the streets in our communities,” Winters said.

“As far as I’m concerned, [they are] psychopaths with guns. So I am infuriated. I am furious.”

Winters called herself “a representative of the community of the people and those impacted because I lost someone I love to police violence here in this city, so my tone may be always different. But one thing I will do is stand on my truth and be honest about some things.”

“The announced function of the police to protect and serve the people becomes the grotesque caricature of protecting and preserving the interests of our oppressors and serving nothing but injustice,” Winters said.

“They are there to intimidate blacks to persuade us ... that we are powerless to alter the conditions of our lives. They have circled the community with a shield of violence, too often forcing the natural aggression of the black community inwards. That’s from Angela Davis,” she said, referring to the author and political activist.

Referring to a U.S. District Court consent decree governing reforms in the department, Winters added: “In this trilogy between myself, the mayor and superintendent, I have my power because I can go straight up to the federal judge to get enforcement,” she said.

Winters’ remarks appeared to make the mayor uncomfortable; Lightfoot wore a face mask which hid her full expression, but appeared to move her eyes from side to side and shift her feet as Winters was speaking.

Catanzara said Lightfoot either failed to vet Winters or chose her deliberately to push a “far-left,” anti-police agenda that includes licensing police officers.

“There’s not even a fair shake. You already have a biased opinion going in with comments like that. She should be immediately removed from that position. She is not going into this open-minded. She has a clear agenda, even before she steps in the door,” Catanzara said of Winters.

“This isn’t about getting things right. This is about, I wouldn’t want to say revenge because she’s talking about a family member who was killed by the police. She’s citing examples like Fred Hampton. Defending Bobby Rush in his Black Panther days. We already know where her narrative is going. How can she be any good steward of conversation about positive changes going forward? We’re not gonna have a seat at that table. It’ll be a bunch of recommendations that will be as far left and anti-police as you could possibly imagine and nothing is going to get accomplished.”

Catanzara said he has “always said I’m open for conversation and logical discussion” but “if that is your starting point, then you wonder why nothing is going to get done. I can’t have dialogue with people who are so far to one side of the fringe that it’s just pointless.”

Mayor Lori Lightfoot looks on as Chicago Police Supt. David Brown speaks during a press conference at City Hall to announce the city’s new Use of Force Working Group, designed to to review the police department’s policies pertaining to use of force, Monday morning, June 15, 2020.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot looks on as Chicago Police Supt. David Brown speaks during a press conference at City Hall to announce the city’s new Use of Force Working Group, designed to to review the police department’s policies pertaining to use of force, Monday morning, June 15, 2020.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

CPD’s use-of-force policy was last overhauled in 2017 to emphasize the “sanctity of life” after the court-ordered release of the Laquan McDonald shooting video. The changes included requiring all sworn members to complete an e-learning course, as well as receive an additional 12 hours of training, according to police officials.

In contrast to the latest community-based approach, those reform efforts were self-imposed, though police leaders did solicit feedback from city residents and community leaders.

Earlier this year, CPD launched a “use-of-force dashboard” that provides the public with aggregate data for use-of-force incidents over the last five years.

Chicago police officers have also received de-escalation training.

The comprehensive efforts — included in the consent decree — appear to be working.

Use-of-force incidents have dropped by 14 percent over the same period last year and by 34 percent compared to the same period in 2015.

The 20-member working group will spend the next eight weeks overhauling the use-of-force policy yet again, to place even more emphasis on “respect for the sanctity of all lives, officer safety and de-escalation techniques that prevent or reduce the need for force,” the mayor said.

“Ultimately, our goal is simple: Create better policies and better training for our officers in order to empower them to address situations appropriately and prevent incidents stemming from excessive uses of force in the future,” the mayor said.

Lightfoot said her drive to reform CPD “accelerated” after the death of George Floyd and“accelerated further” after she accused 13 police officers of sleeping on a couch, popping popcorn and drinking coffee in U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush’s South Side campaign office while looters had a field day in the same strip mall earlier this month.

“That means taking the FOP head-on and ensure the police union contract represents our city’s values and requiring licensing for police officers once and for all — just as we do with so many other professions,” she said.

That prompted Catanzara to conclude Lightfoot was “OK with the kind of rhetoric” used by Winters.

“If you cater to that squeaky wheel, people are going to be distracted from your lack of a plan for the riots and everything else that has taken place in this city in the last month that you did nothing to stop,” Catanzara said.

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