The Chicago Police Department has doled out suspensions of up to 20 days against 17 Chicago Police officers and supervisors accused of sleeping on a couch, popping popcorn and drinking coffee in the burglarized office of U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush at the same strip mall where looters had a field day last year.
Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara disclosed the punishment and said the union has filed grievances challenging all of those suspensions, which range from one day to 20 days. One suspended officer was punished “for simply walking in and using the bathroom,” he said.
“What do you want people to do when there was nothing going on? They had already secured the whole property. They had originally walked through the parking lot around the back side of all of the buildings to make sure all the doors were secure when they arrived there,” Catanzara told the Sun-Times.
“They came around the front. There was nothing going on. That was done. Period. Are they supposed to stand at attention in the mall?”
On Thursday, the Chicago Police Department wouldn’t officially confirm the suspensions, saying only that the officers were “notified of the results of the investigation.” The department said it wouldn’t provide any details about the results of the investigation because of the “ongoing grievance process.”
Catanzara has accused Lightfoot of staging a trumped-up, “Hollywood production” press conference about the incident, in order to push a political agenda that includes licensing of all police officers in Illinois.
The video — Catanzara acknowledged at the time that it “looks bad” — was showcased during that dramatic mayoral press conference in June.
An outraged and emotional Lightfoot, her voice breaking at times, joined Rush that day and apologized to her former political nemesis for the “unspeakable indignity,” vowing to hunt down the officers responsible.
“Let me lead by apologizing to you again on behalf of our city that you and your office were treated with such profound disrespect. That’s a personal embarrassment to me. And I’m sorry that you and your staff had to deal with this incredible indignity,” the mayor told Rush on that day.
Lightfoot argued then that the officers’ “deplorable failure to do their jobs” would only underscore the widespread perception that police officers “don’t care when Black and Brown communities are looted and burned.”
Civil unrest sparked by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis spread throughout the city that weekend. Protesters clashed with police. Stores in several neighborhoods were looted and burned.
“You’re not serving and protecting when you make movie popcorn and put up your feet while your fellow officers are getting the hell beat out of them just a few doors away,” Lightfoot said.
At the time, Catanzara argued that the officer shown sleeping on Rush’s couch was exhausted after working a 13-and-a-half-hour day, after just a four-hour break, on what was supposed to be a day off.
On Thursday, the fiery union president argued Lightfoot’s motive was more selfish: to deflect attention from her own failure to stop the bloodbath on Chicago streets.
“There was 22 people killed, I believe, killed in one day in June in the city of Chicago during this summer,” he said.
“Distract, distract, distract. Coffee and popcorn. Coffee and popcorn. Don’t look at this.”
Catanzara previously has said the officers were in the parking lot of a Home Depot at 87th Street and the Dan Ryan Expressway earlier on that night of Sunday, May 31, before being reassigned to 55th and State streets “at the behest of someone in the upper ranks of the police department ... There was no other purpose to be there other than the fact that Bobby Rush’s office was there and it wasn’t destroyed like everything else.”
Who made that call remains a mystery, he said Thursday.
“Then you could back track it from who made the phone call to the lieutenant to tell him to get his people on the bus and go over to that little mall. Then, you’ll find out who called that person. … They don’t want to keep back-tracking on who originally made the call to have police go over there to begin with.”
Rush has emphatically denied someone on his staff invited the officers to secure his office. Lightfoot has also said she believes the allegation that officers were invited into Rush’s office is “simply not true.”
Contributing: Frank Main