Catanzara blasts Lightfoot over comments about officers’ ‘incredible amount’ of time off

The mayor contends the amount of “respite baked into” the police contract makes Catanzara’s “narrative” about cops being worked “like mules” false.

SHARE Catanzara blasts Lightfoot over comments about officers’ ‘incredible amount’ of time off
Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 President John Catanzara says the right to arbitration should not be taken from officers.

John Catanzara, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, ridiculed Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s comments about Chicago police officers’ time off.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times file

Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara is ridiculing his nemesis, Mayor Lori Lightfoot, for denying that Chicago police officers are being driven to the breaking point with a relentless string of canceled days off.

Last week, Lightfoot argued the amount of “respite baked into” the police contract and the advance notice officers “never used to get” before their days off were canceled, makes Catanzara’s “narrative” about cops being worked “like mules” false.

The mayor’s argument has been ridiculed by scores of police officers on social media.

Catanzara joined the chorus in a YouTube video message to the rank and file posted Friday on the police union’s Facebook page.

“This lady is either that evil, which is my guess, or misguided. Take your pick. Or a combination of both,” he said, accusing Lightfoot of either a “blatant lie” or “absolute ignorance.”

Catanzara acknowledged the eight-year contract that included a 20% pay raise, more than half of it retroactive, granted rank-and-file police officers an average of 24 days of furlough time each year. That’s in addition to “personal days, baby furlough days and compensatory time,” he said.

“The problem is, you can’t use it. It gets denied routinely because of manpower staffing issues that they have created with their policies,” Catanzara said.

“If the mayor thinks that 24 days off is more than ample time to spend with your family and decompress, she’s shortsighted.”

Catanzara also unleashed his anger against City Council members for failing to challenge what he called the mayor’s chronic abuse of the rank and file.

With precious few exceptions, alderpersons are “absolutely willing to let the men and women of the police department suffer the consequences of canceled RDOs [regularly scheduled days off] after canceled RDOs and 12-hour days. It is not a sustainable model. But you do not hear anybody hardly calling for change.”

Catanzara accused City Hall of exacerbating the strain on diminished police resources by granting permits for “25,000-people festivals” the day before the event is scheduled to begin.

“These event organizers need to have the burden shifted to them. Security plans have to be put in their proposals for a permit, and they have to allocate the manpower and resources for that security and take care of the financial responsibility themselves,” he said.

“This can no longer fall on the backs of the Chicago Police Department. It can’t. We don’t have the availability. We no longer do Cubs and Sox games or Bears games like we used to. That went out to the traffic aides because of manpower issues. The same needs to be done with these festivals.”

Catanzara has said he is mulling a race for mayor against Lightfoot, with whom he has been at odds over all things law enforcement, including the mayor’s vaccine mandate.

Lightfoot has said she would relish the challenge from him.

In his video, Catanzara noted an independent arbitrator has promised a decision on Wednesday on the union’s grievance attempting to hold the city to that portion of the contract that prohibits the city from forcing officers to work more than 10 consecutive days.

“We shall see on the 29th if we get relief for July 4th [weekend]. We think we have solid footing. [But] he’s made promises about deadlines before,” the union president said.

Even as she denied that Chicago police officers are being overworked, Lightfoot acknowledged there were times when “a day off has to be canceled” to accommodate an emergency or when a problem confined to a “particular geographic area” requires officers to work “a couple of hours” of overtime.

“Look at the incredible amount of furlough days, personal days and other things that officers have by contract,” she said. “This notion — I think the infamous head of the FOP has said as part of his campaign, ‘They’re being worked like mules’ — it’s just simply not correct.”

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