Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara have been at loggerheads over all things public safety ever since rank-and-file Chicago police officers chose the always-outspoken Catanzara as their union president.
Now the mayor and her archrival are at odds yet again — this time, over whether they have reached an agreement to end the four-year stalemate standing in the way of a new police contract and the retroactive pay raise that comes with it.
Three days after Catanzara posted a YouTube video declaring the FOP had reached a tentative agreement with the Chicago Police Department, Lightfoot said it simply wasn’t true.
The mayor didn’t insult Catanzara or call him a liar, which she has not hesitated to do in the past. But she flatly denied an agreement had been reached.
“I just got read in [on negotiations]. So, we’re not ready to really talk about any of the substance. My team is evaluating the proposal. And we’ll have more to say about it one way or the other. But unfortunately, Mr. Catanzara’s announcement that there’s a deal simply wasn’t correct,” Lightfoot told reporters at an unrelated news conference.
Catanzara stuck to his guns. But, he was uncharacteristically tight-lipped in doing so, for fear of reversing the progress he believes has laid the groundwork for an eight-year deal.
“I will have more to say later in the week. I have pledged to allow the process to play out. I can’t control what the mayor says, why she says it or how she phrases things. But I stick by my original statement and I’ll have more to say later this week,” he said.
Catanzara was asked if the deal he claims to have reached with the city was strictly financial or whether it also includes changes to the disciplinary process that Lightfoot has long demanded.
“It’s a combination of a couple topics. That’s all I’m saying right now. You know me well enough to know I’m certainly not gonna bite my tongue when it’s appropriate. But right now, I’m biting my tongue and it’s killing me,” he said.
Pressed for specifics, he said, “Nice try. I’m not saying anything.”
Last fall, Catanzara stormed out of a bargaining session after the mayor’s team offered his members a 10% pay raise over four years in exchange for higher health care contributions and also added 17 pages filled with 40 disciplinary reforms. A week later, the FOP presented a counteroffer demanding a 17% pay raise over four years. Officers living outside the city, however, would get only half that amount.
Early this year, Lightfoot said the police union lacked a “sense of urgency” in negotiating for a new contract because a bargaining session hadn’t been scheduled yet three weeks into 2021.
Then, in May, the FOP issued a vote of no confidence in Lightfoot, CPD Supt. David Brown and First Deputy Supt. Eric Carter over the working conditions its members were subjected to.
After the Sun-Times reported last month that more Chicago police officers have retired this year than in all of 2018, Catanzara blamed “absolutely miserable” working conditions for the mass exodus, meaning 12-hour shifts, canceled days off, the constant threat of punitive action and the four-year wait for a new police contract.
“This department just doesn’t give a damn. You are literally treated like a rented mule and ridden until you can’t go any more. And then, on to the next. Today’s hero, tomorrow’s zero,” said Catanzara, who has been at loggerheads with Lightfoot.
“They are not supported. They are in fear that this department has become so retaliatory for every little, even honest mistake. It’s just not worth risking their job, their employment history or, even worse, their freedom.”
Asked then what it would take to reverse the tidal wave of police retirements, Catanzara said: “A new mayor, a new superintendent and cleaning house over at 35th and Michigan to get rid of a lot of the upper echelon who just are going along with this policy, including the ones who are sitting silent, letting this go on and not speaking up because they’re trying to protect their gold, bright pension and they don’t want to get dumped because they know how bitter and vindictive this mayor can be.”