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Can Catanzara remain FOP president if he’s not a cop?

Past police union presidents traditionally retired from the Police Department only after finishing their term as head of the union.

Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 President John Catanzara
Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 President John Catanzara
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Police Union President John Catanzara, despite plans to retire as a sworn member of the Chicago Police Department, plans to stay on as head of the union that represents thousands of rank and file officers.

The union’s bylaws allow for elected positions to be held by retired cops who are collecting their pensions.

Catanzara on Monday announced his intention to retire amid a hearing process before the Chicago Police Board that was to determine whether he should be fired for a slew of rules violations.

Catanzara, 53, has been a police officer 27 years.

When Catanzara retires — he said he plans to do so Tuesday — his disciplinary case disappears.

“I could never give mayor the ability to say she fired me,” he said. “It was more important to this membership that I walk away than give her the ability to say those words.”

Catanzara and his attorney, Tim Grace, said Monday that his pension was never at risk. The only thing that could jeopardize his pension would be a felony conviction, Grace said.

Even if he had been fired as a result of the disciplinary process, he could still serve as president of the police union, Grace said, noting that the matter is labor union business that’s out of the city’s control.

“I’ve been waiting for the better part of a decade to tell this city, ‘Take this job and shove it,’” Catanzara told the Sun-Times, citing a “lack of accountability” with leadership.

Catanzara was elected to a three-year term as head of the union in 2020. He has remained an active police officer who was detailed to the union.

Past union presidents all retired from the Police Department after finishing their service as head of the union.

Catanzara also announced Monday he plans to run for mayor in 2023 but will also run again for head of the union in case his mayoral campaign doesn’t succeed.

Catanzara said he’s had “serious and increasingly frequent” conversations about a mayoral run but has yet to lay the fundraising groundwork necessary to take over the office from his rival Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

“I will have my vindication when I tell her to get the hell out of my office and give me the keys in 2023,” he said.