Cold war between Lightfoot and FOP about to turn into a deep freeze

John Catanzara, one of the FOP’s most frequently-disciplined members, and Martin Preib, who has crusaded against the “wrongful convictions movement,” are expected to be the top two finishers in an election for union president when results are announced Thursday.

SHARE Cold war between Lightfoot and FOP about to turn into a deep freeze
Chicago Police Officer John Catanzara talks to reporters in the lobby of the Dirksen federal building in October, 2018 after testifying on the consent decree outlining the terms of federal court oversight over the Chicago Police Department.

Chicago Police Officer John Catanzara talks to reporters in the lobby of the Dirksen federal building in October, 2018 after testifying on the consent decree outlining the terms of federal court oversight over the Chicago Police Department.

Nader Issa/Chicago Sun-Times

The cold war between Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the Fraternal Order of Police is in danger of turning into a deep freeze.

John Catanzara, one of the CPD’s most frequently disciplined officers, and Martin Preib, who has crusaded against the “wrongful convictions movement,” are expected to be the top two finishers in an election for union president when results are announced Thursday.

Incumbent FOP President Kevin Graham is a long-shot to make the run-off. The question appears to be whether Catanzara or Preib will claim more than 50% of the votes or whether the two strongest challengers will be forced into a run-off.

Three years ago, high turnout and low morale helped Graham soundly defeat then-incumbent FOP President Dean Angelo heading into contentious contract negotiations.

Graham vowed then to fight what he and Preib — currently the FOP’s Second Vice President — have called the “anti-police movement” and deliver a new contract that includes “fair due process and discipline” for his members.

Three years later, rank-and-file police officers are still waiting for a new contract. In December, the FOP board voted to put its demand for an 18% pay raise over three years in the hands of an independent arbitrator.

If Catanzara wins, Lightfoot will have her hands full.

“If you want to talk, we’re willing to listen and sit down and talk. If you want to fight, we’re gonna bring a fight like no FOP has ever brought to any mayor in this city — ever,” Catanzara said Monday.

“The membership is dying for a voice. They’re tired of nobody standing up for the police. Rahm [Emanuel] ignored us for almost two years. And Kevin [Graham] let him get away with it. What did the teachers do when they didn’t get their answers?”

Reminded that state law prohibits police officers from striking, Catanzara argued that, “You don’t need to strike to get peoples’ attention.”

“We’re going to retain a law firm and fight the residency law in Springfield. The Lodge has been afraid to fight this fight for a long time. But we have wiggle room to attack that and we’re going to do it,” Catanzara said.

Graham and Preib could not be reached for comment.

Ray Casiano and Michael Seiser are also running for union president.

Three years ago, Catanzara was reprimanded for posting a picture of himself on social media dressed in his police uniform holding an American flag and a homemade sign that read, “I stand for the anthem. I love the American flag. I support my President and the Second Amendment.”

Catanzara was also recommended for firing in 2012, after Independent Police Review Authority investigators determined he had been working security at an Old Town restaurant while he was on medical leave from CPD with a back injury.

The board found him guilty but instead opted to suspend him for 20 days.

He remains stripped of his police powers and assigned to administrative duty for filing a police report against now-fired Police Supt. Eddie Johnson after Johnson marched arm-in-arm with Father Michael Pleger on the Dan Ryan Expressway.

“Most of my suspensions have been for internal department issues. Not public–related. Not use of force. Not stealing money. None of that stuff. It’s all because I call bulls—t on bosses and this department doesn’t like it. It goes right back to the code of silence that she [Lightfoot] wants to stop,” Catanzara said.

Police discipline records published by the Invisible Institute show that Catanzara has been accused of misconduct 50 times since he was hired by the CPD in 1995. Ten of those accusations have been sustained.

Catanzara testified at length at a federal court hearing on the consent decree and has confronted Lightfoot at City Council meetings, along with the FOP’s First Vice President Pat Murray, whom the mayor called “this FOP clown” on an open-mic.

“The Lodge did nothing when the mayor called him a clown — and basically all of us. The membership was disgusted. That’s why I marched out in front of her house four days later because the Lodge wouldn’t do anything. They have no backbone,” he said.

In 2017, Preib lashed out at Chicago aldermen for authorizing a $31 million settlement to four Englewood men who spent more than a decade in prison for the rape and murder of a prostitute before their convictions were overturned after DNA evidence linked the crime to a career criminal.

Preib argued then that there was “powerful evidence” that the Englewood Four “were indeed involved in this crime” and urged aldermen not to bow to pressure from the “wrongful conviction movement.”

“Civil rights lawyers have carved out a cottage industry in the name of wrongful convictions. They look to this chamber as their blank check. Their playbook is simple: They claim police misconduct, get the prosecutors to exonerate, draft a willing media and then manipulate the citizens of Chicago out of their tax money,” Preib said then.

Contributing: Sam Charles

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