Police union boss should resign or be forced out after his pathetic defense of Capitol mob

John Catanzara — a verbal bomb thrower acting as a union leader — must either step down or be dismissed as president of the local Fraternal Order of Police.

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Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara speaks during a rally for President Donald Trump in Mount Greenwood last November.

Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara, a President Donald Trump supporter who was sympathetic toward the Capitol Building rioters, must now step down as union president.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times file

If Chicago police are looking to win a bigger share of the public trust needed to do their jobs, they’d do well to dump John Catanzara as their union president.

Catanzara, in an interview with public radio station WBEZ, sympathized with the mob that raided and desecrated the U.S. Capitol last week. A U.S. Capitol police officer was among those killed in the insurrection.

The remarks are just the latest in a stream of reckless talk from Catanzara since he was elected Fraternal Order of Police president last May.

Thirty-six aldermen and City Clerk Anna Valencia rightfully agree it’s time for Catanzara to walk the plank, signing a resolution calling for his resignation in the wake of his recent comments. If he doesn’t step down, the resolution calls on the FOP board of directors to request that Catanzara step aside.

“If a police officer’s job is justice, then to have someone representing them who is defending lawlessness and injustice — it’s something the union needs to speak on,” said Ald. Andre Vasquez, who introduced the resolution.

Catanzara has apologized, calling his remarks a “lapse in judgment.” But that was only after his comments were roundly condemned, most pointedly by the president of the 356,000-member National FOP.

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The relationship in Chicago between the police and the public couldn’t be more tenuous, yet Catanzara has been a verbal bomb-thrower since taking office.

He’s had his say. Now we’ll have ours: Catanzara must go.

Capitol mob just ‘pissed-off people’

Since becoming union president, Catanzara has publicly sparred in the cheapest way with Mayor Lori Lightfoot, the Chicago Teachers Union, police brutality protesters — and even his fellow cops, saying last summer that officers who kneel with demonstrators would risk “being brought up on charges and thrown out of the lodge.”

And when protesters threatened to pull down the Christopher Columbus sculpture in Grant Park last summer, Catanzara — whose police powers had been taken away two years earlier for assorted acts of misconduct — told ABC 7: “The mob cannot rule this city. The politicians are supposed to rule this city, and they’re cowards.”

That’s tough talk. But Catanzara turned kitten in last week’s WBEZ interview, saying the mob President Donald Trump incited to violence and destruction at the Capitol was only “a bunch of pissed-off people that feel an election was stolen, somehow, some way.”

And while the rest of us witnessed a riot aimed at overturning the results of a democratic election, Catanzara said he saw “no looting [and] . . . very little destruction of property.”

“If the worst crime here is trespassing, so be it,” he said. “But to call these people treasonous is beyond ridiculous and ignorant.”

Catanzara later ate those words, saying that “after seeing more video and the full aftermath, my comments would have been different.”

Catanzara’s original comments were nonetheless reprehensible, even if he was unaware at the time that a protester had killed a police officer by apparently smashing him over the head with a fire extinguisher. Plenty of other officers, as anybody could see even then, were being physically threatened and attacked.

And given Catanzara’s pattern of loose talk — and his sorry record as an officer — his apology is near worthless.

“The Fraternal Order of Police can do the right thing and say to the people of Chicago, `We don’t stand for it,’ ” Ald. Vasquez said in calling for Catanzara’s ouster.

Catanzara’s checkered past

The City Council resolution — expected to be introduced on Jan. 27 — highlights an FOP bylaw that bars from membership “any person who is a member of, or subscribes to, or supports the principles of any organization having as its purpose the overthrow of the United States by force or violence.”

Should he not resign, the resolution calls for the Chicago Police Department to investigate Catanzara’s actions. But that is already a well-traveled road. The 26-year veteran has been the subject of 50 police misconduct complaints.

Catanzara’s past is as checkered as a Chicago police hatband. It includes a 20-day suspension in 2012 when it was discovered he was working as a security guard while on medical leave.

He was nearly fired for refusing to complete a 2008 department psychological exam. He was reprimanded in 2017 for posing in uniform by a police squad car with a sign that said, “I Stand for the Anthem, I Love the American Flag, I Support My President and the 2nd Amendment.”

And in 2018 Catanzara was stripped of his police powers and put behind a desk after filing a report accusing now-former police Supt. Eddie Johnson of breaking the law for participating with the Rev. Michael Pfleger in an anti-gun-violence march that resulted in the shutdown of the Dan Ryan Expressway.

Two years later, Catanzara took the reins of the Chicago FOP, becoming the first person to lead the organization after having been relieved of his police powers.

Since then, it’s only become more apparent Catanzara was the wrong choice to head the 12,000-member union, and he is certainly ill-suited to be the organization’s public voice.

Especially now.

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