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Police union to oppose resumption of 12-hour shifts

Fraternal Order of Police president John Catanzara also tied the longer shifts to the death of an off-duty officer after a carbon monoxide leak in his Albany Park home, calling it “clearly a tragic accident due to exhaustion.”

Chicago police officers on State Street near Wacker Drive, where thousands of protesters gathered Saturday to join national outrage over the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody,
Chicago police officers on State Street near Wacker Drive in May as thousands of protesters gathered downtown to join national outrage over the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody,
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

The Fraternal Order of Police plans to go to court to force Chicago to cancel 12-hour shifts, saying they are a hazard to already burned-out Chicago police officers.

Union president John Catanzara also tied the longer shifts to the death of an off-duty officer after a carbon monoxide leak in that officer’s Albany Park home, calling it “clearly a tragic accident due to exhaustion.”

The longer shifts were instituted to deal with protests, riots and looting in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

They have now resumed amid concern the fatal shooting of 27-year-old Rayshard Brooks by a white police officer in Atlanta will trigger another round of mayhem in Chicago.

At Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Monday news conference, “nobody even asked the question, is she gonna make it a line-of-duty death?” Catanzara said, referring to the off-duty officer, Xu Meng.

“There’s no other evidence otherwise. And now, the kid’s gonna have no father for the rest of his life because this department had no plan and decided to just work people into the ground. And now, they’re doing it yet again.”

Catanzara said the police contract is clear: To justify 12-hour days, the mayor and police superintendent first must declare an emergency. That was not done this time. And it wasn’t done before 12-hour shifts were ordered in response to rampant looting and mayhem the last weekend in May that destroyed parts of downtown, then spread into South and West side neighborhoods.

“When you work past 12 [hours] you’re entitled to a second lunch. They didn’t even get a first one. A lot of `em were dumped in the middle of these neighborhoods with no rest room whatsoever,” the union president said.

“Female officers were literally forced to go into alleys behind dumpsters to use the restroom. There was no food. There was no drink. It was disgusting the planning and preparation for the men and women of this police department that was not done by the upper brass and the mayor.”

Catanzara said there is no emergency — either real or declared.

Officers now assigned to 12-hour days are “sitting around bored out of their minds, sitting there doing nothing, when they could be at home resting, recuperating from the last three weeks,” he said.