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CPD cancels days off, union says department bracing for Rittenhouse verdict

The Rittenhouse connection was made by Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara, who accused the city of violating a mediation settlement by failing to provide notice to officers before canceling their days off.

Kyle Rittenhouse (left, with backwards cap) walks along Sheridan Road in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Aug. 25, 2020, with another armed civilian.
Kyle Rittenhouse (left, with backwards cap) walks along Sheridan Road in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Aug. 25, 2020, with another armed civilian. He is on trial for fatally shooting two men. He also shot and wounded a third.
Adam Rogan/The Journal Times via AP

The Chicago Police Department has canceled regularly scheduled days off starting Friday and through the weekend in apparent anticipation of civil unrest in the event that Kyle Rittenhouse is acquitted.

The internal memo circulated to rank-and-file officers makes no mention of the Rittenhouse trial in Kenosha or a potential verdict.

It simply states that, starting with the first watch Friday, regularly scheduled days off for all sworn personnel will be canceled.

“All RDO personnel will be attired in the prescribed regulation field uniform of the day, including helmet, baton and yellow safety vest,” said the memo, dispatched by a sergeant on behalf of First Deputy Police Supt. Eric Carter.

The connection to the Rittenhouse verdict was made by Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara, who accused the city of violating a mediation settlement by failing to provide notice to officers before canceling their days off.

“This is clear violation of what we came to [agree upon]. There was no notice. They do not get to just keep saying, ‘We need manpower just in case a verdict doesn’t go positive’ and, all the sudden, there’s upheaval,” Catanzara told his members in a video posted on the union’s Facebook page.

“That’s not the way this department needs to be [run]. But that’s what happens when you put a hat in charge of doing the mayor’s bidding in the second spot. And you know who I’m talking about. It just doesn’t stop with this guy. He is such a pathetic leader. I don’t even know how he looks himself in the mirror.”

Catanzara was referring to Carter, a frequent target of the fiery union president’s blasts.

Canceled days off this weekend are not the only thing causing already rock-bottom police morale to plummet even further.

Officers were also disappointed to learn their four years of retroactive pay raises — tens of thousands of dollars per officer — will arrive after Christmas.

“You’re going four years back for over 10,000 people. And even with computers, you’re figuring out overtime. You’re figuring out schedules. This is an enormously complicated process,” said a City Hall source, who asked to remain anonymous.

“The fact that we will have these checks out by the end of the year is nothing short of a major miracle. There’s no nefarious reasons. There’s no paranoia. There’s no retribution. There’s no, ‘We got delayed on borrowing’ [to pay for it]. It’s simply a question of enormous logistics to get this done and get it done right.”

Unlike the last police contract, the new eight-year deal doesn’t require the city to pay officers interest (at an annual rate of 4.5%) if retro checks are not delivered within 75 days of the union’s ratification vote.

Catanzara begged to differ, telling members in the video: “Slow down. You’ll get your money. We’re not even at the 75-day window that’s in the contract provision currently. Once we hit there, we will file a grievance. We will demand the 4.5% interest. ... We’re going to have to fight for that, too.”

The mayor’s office countered that its only commitment was to deliver back-pay checks “by the end of 2021.”

Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 members and their supporters protest against COVID-19 vaccine mandates outside City Hall before a Chicago City Council meeting, Monday morning, Oct. 25, 2021.
Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 members and their supporters protest against COVID-19 vaccine mandates outside City Hall in late October.
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Religious vaccine objectors must sign extra form

Exacerbating tensions between the rank and file and City Hall is the city’s demand that officers sign an additional form if they file for a religious exemption from Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s vaccine mandate.

“Your submitted request for a religious exemption cited a moral or religious objection to abortion and/or fetal cell lines used in the vaccine process,” the form states.

The form requires officers to promise not to use a series of over-the-counter medications that “fall into the same category as the COVID-19 vaccine in their use of fetal cell lines.”

The products include Tylenol, Pepto Bismol, aspirin, Motrin, Senokot, Tums, Maalox, Ex-Lax, Benadryl, Sudafed, Claritin, acetaminophen and Preparation H.

“That’s the silliest thing I ever saw,” said former mayoral challenger and city budget director Paul Vallas, the FOP’s lead consultant at the bargaining table.

“How in the world are they going to enforce it? Do people really sit down and think about these things? And then, they’re gonna punish people? What are they gonna do — go into their homes and check their medicine cabinets? Don’t these people have anything better to do than do things that justifiably irritate people?”

In a statement, the mayor’s office said the form was a follow-up sent to “those employees who cited the use of fetal cells and abortion in their exemption requests.”

The statement noted the vaccines “do not contain fetal cells” and the form is “similar to what other employers around the country are using.”