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FOP president wants new police contract, not disciplinary changes

Fraternal Order of Police President Kevin Graham spoke at a City Club of Chicago event Tuesday, April 30, 2019. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Fraternal Order of Police President Kevin Graham on Tuesday urged Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot to start negotiating the new police contract that Rahm Emanuel punted, but slammed the door on disciplinary changes outlined in the federal consent decree.

Lightfoot co-chaired the Task Force on Police Accountability that demanded changes to a police contract that, it claimed, “codifies the code of silence” that Emanuel famously acknowledged exists at the Chicago Police Department.

The City Council’s Black Caucus has threatened to hold up ratification of any police contract that continues to make it “easy for officers to lie” by giving them 24 hours before providing a statement after a shooting and includes “impediments to accountability” that prohibit anonymous complaints, allow officers to change statements after reviewing video and require sworn affidavits.

But after a luncheon address to the City Club of Chicago, Graham made it clear that an FOP that fought the consent decree tooth and nail was not about to agree to anonymous complaints.

“Nowhere in our society do we have people that do not face their accusers. That’s just wrong,” Graham said.

“People are not afraid to come forward. If it’s important, they will do it. Police officers don’t go after people because somebody makes a complaint on them. That’s ridiculous.”

Graham was equally adamant about retaining — and maybe even increasing — the 24-hour waiting period before statements are given after a police shooting.

“Why should federal agents have 72 hours and we only have 24?” he said.

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Graham acknowledged that Lightfoot has “a lot on her plate” and “a lot of things coming at her.”

But he’s disappointed that his only meeting with the mayor-elect was canceled and that the FOP was not included in Lightfoot’s public safety transition committee or in the meetings she’s having to combat the traditional summer surge in violent crime.

“The first thing I would say is, ‘Let’s get a contract done right now.’ July 1st, it’s gonna be two years without a contract. The sergeants, lieutenants and captains will be three years without a contract. Get that done right away and we’ll be able to move forward in trying to look at things the city needs, making sure the officers’ needs are met,” he said.

But Graham once again scoffed at Lightfoot’s suggestion that the now-expired police contract “codifies the code of silence.”

“There is no code of silence that I know of. If she knows of something, then she should have done something about it. I have not changed my position on that whatsoever,” he said.

Later Tuesday, Lightfoot responded that the FOP’s position on disciplinary changes has been “clear for a while now — certainly well over a year.”

Still, the mayor-elect held her ground.

“This is gonna be a different kind of contract. We’re obviously gonna be pressing on other issues that haven’t [gotten] the level of prominence that they will this time around,” she said.

“I know they have very specific ideas of what should be in and what shouldn’t and we’re gonna figure out ways in which we can meet in the middle. But there’s a statement of values around accountability that we’re gonna press for. And I feel confident that we’re gonna be able to make some changes in those contracts so we’re consistent with the reforms that are already in place and that are anticipated by the consent decree.’

Graham and Lightfoot are also on a collision course over the mayor-elect’s promise to abolish CPD’s error-filled gang database.

The FOP president agreed that changes are needed to make the gang database more accurate. But he argued that eliminating it entirely would jeopardize officer safety.

He also favors a return to the old “contact cards” in place of “investigatory stop reports” demanded by the ACLU.

“We need to be moving on. We cannot be tied up in minutia. We cannot be tied up in taking somebody off the street to go and enter these, and then face discipline if there’s a mistake made,” Graham said.

Adding further fuel to the fire, Graham acknowledged under questioning that the union representing rank-and-file police officers is helping to fund the appeal of the Chicago Police officer convicted for the murder of Laquan McDonald.

Why is that necessary when Jason Van Dyke, whom the union employed as a janitor, could be released in 33 months?

“There are a number of anomalies that occurred in this case — not to mention the fact that there was information that was not presented in court. Witnesses that should have been called were not called. And we certainly have some concerns about that,” Graham said.

“I certainly want to make sure that Jason gets a fair hearing in the appeal process and that his attorneys have every avenue in which to do that.”

During his City Club speech, Graham also escalated his war of words with embattled Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx.

This time, it had nothing to do with the controversy that has swirled around Foxx ever since her office dropped disorderly conduct charges against “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett.

“What we’ve asked for from Kim Foxx and her office is to prosecute people. Not to be the defense attorney,” Graham said to a smattering of applause.

“I hope she suddenly realizes that this is what her job is and that she needs to do it. If she can’t, she needs to step down and let somebody else do it. She’s not the defense attorney. She’s not here to make social change . . . . She needs to prosecute people because what we have seen is an uptick in crime. We’ve seen a revolving door at the County Jail. The County Jail is becoming like a hockey penalty box.”

Tandra Simonton, a spokesperson for the state’s attorney’s office, responded that Foxx’s office has “charged the overwhelming majority of the felony cases brought by local law enforcement.” That includes, she said, 97 percent of vehicular hijackings; 97 percent of home invasions; and 92 percent of gun possession cases.

“From day one our focus is and always has been to ensure that the most violent offenders are off the streets and brought to justice so we can create safer, stronger communities across Cook County.”