FOP storms away from contract talks after Lightfoot demands 17 pages of disciplinary reforms

Union president John Catanzara was so insulted, he will make a financial-only counter-offer and demand an up-or-down City Council vote. Aldermen voting “no” will face opponents recruited and bankrolled by the police union.

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Chicago police officers stand in front of businesses on Lake Park Avenue near 52nd Street on the third day of protests in Chicago over the death of George Floyd.

Chicago police officers did “an amazing job of keeping as much law and order” as possible in a time of “chaos,” their union president said Monday, and now it’s time for the city to pay up.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times file

Chicago Police officers have waited more than three years for a new contract and the retroactive pay raise that comes with it.

The first substantive offer they got from Mayor Lori Lightfoot was hardly worth the wait, according to their fiery union president.

Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara said he stormed away from Tuesday’s long-awaited negotiating session after the mayor’s team offered his members the same 10% pay raise over four years already awarded to Chicago firefighters in exchange for higher health care contributions — but tacked on 17 pages, including 40 disciplinary reforms.

Catanzara was so insulted by the offer and the conditions Lightfoot attached to it he plans to make a financial-only counter-offer and demand an up-or-down vote by the City Council. He refused to reveal specifics, except to say the union’s proposal would be higher than the city’s 10%, but lower than the 18% over three years demanded by his predecessor.

Those aldermen who dare to oppose the FOP’s offer will find themselves facing opponents recruited and bankrolled by the police union.

“We will be taking names. We will be slating candidates. … We will have a $1 million-a-year PAC going forward starting next year. And in 2023, there’s going to be a day of reckoning for these aldermen who think they can skate by under the radar and say they support the police, but do nothing,” Catanzara said.

“We’re gonna see who shows up and who wants to do the right thing by the men and women of this police department who have absolutely been champions this whole summer and used like rented mules at the drop of a hat with no consideration whatsoever. Well, it’s time to pay the piper.”

Mike Frisch, senior advisor and legal counsel to Lightfoot, fired off a letter to Catanzara, accusing the FOP president of sabotaging the talks with unreasonable financial demands and a tone-deaf response to legitimate demands for police reform.

“We remain committed to working together towards a fair contract, but will never retreat from the reforms that are essential to restoring legitimacy and accountability,” Frisch wrote in the Sept. 16 letter, obtained by the Sun-Times.

“It is clear that you are totally misreading this moment, the demands of the consent decree and the needs of the public. It is unfortunate that you do not appear serious about reaching an agreement. Every day that passes that your members are without a contract is now on you.”

Frisch further accused Catanzara of threatening to “walk out of the room when I reminded you that the city would not consider any collective bargaining agreement that failed to include accountability reforms.”

“Indeed, you spent the session denigrating the mayor and pointing fingers. … You told us that the city’s financial condition was `not our problem to solve’ and told us to ‘find the money’ for even higher raises,” Frisch wrote, calling the 10% offer “the best the city could responsibly offer under any circumstances.”

Catanzara refused to provide details on the disciplinary changes demanded by the mayor. But he acknowledged they included a demand to get rid of sworn affidavits and pave the way for anonymous complaints against police officers.

There’s also a proposal that talks about the alphabet soup of agencies charged with investigating police wrongdoing, such as CPD’s own Internal Affairs Division and the Civilian Office of Police Accountability.

“They want to re-write the wording for IAD and COPA and call it `the city’s investigatory agency.’ That could mean anything. Now, our members would be subject to this broad, gray entity. Well, what would constitute that? There’s no definition of what is the city’s investigative agency,” Catanzara said.

“They’re trying to play cute little games. They put poison pills in there. They’re gonna try and make me and us look like a bad guy. Like we’re not being reasonable. Reasonable is the police department has done an amazing job of keeping as much law and order [as possible] — at a time of chaos and an administration [that] promoted chaos — and needs to be compensated fairly. We deserved it prior to the pandemic and the riots. We sure as hell deserve it now more than ever.”

Chicago firefighters ratified their four-year contract by a 76% vote. It includes a 10% raise, with all but 2.5% retroactive.

In exchange, rank-and-file health care contributions would rise by 1.5 percentage points. That’s more than double for single coverage.

Catanzara said his members deserve more. Never mind that Lightfoot sent her budget director and chief financial officer to Tuesday’s negotiating session to talk about the combined $2 billion shortfall for this year and next.

“I basically told them our members are not gonna take it over the barrel because you guys delayed us intentionally for three years now. And now, because, `Woe is me. We’re poor,’ now, we have to take it on the chin. That’s not gonna happen,” he said.

“Firemen get to go back to their firehouse and wait for the next call, no matter how long they’re working. Police don’t have that luxury. They’re out there standing on foot posts for 12 or 14 hours. No bathrooms in sight. Women have to go find a dumpster to squat behind to go to the bathroom. Getting s--- thrown at us. Fireworks shot at us. Spit on. .… Our profession is a harder profession — especially in this day and time. And we need to be treated and compensated accordingly.”

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