He’s leaving, but he’s not going anywhere. In fact, John Catanzara will be bigger, brasher and more incendiary than ever.
On Tuesday, the controversial president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 quit his job as a patrol officer and simultaneously declared he will challenge his abiding nemesis, Mayor Lori Lightfoot, in 2023.
The Chicago Police Board was poised to consider firing Catanzara on the recommendation of Chicago Police Supt. David Brown, following investigations by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability and the Chicago Police Department.
The uber-controversial, always tendentious union leader was elected by the 12,000-member FOP in May 2020, even though he has spent much of his 26-year police career under investigation.
He was charged with violating 11 police department rules in connection to 18 allegations, including making offensive and controversial statements on social media, insubordination and filing a false report.
Catanzara has amassed at least 35 complaints in his career, and previous police superintendents have tried to fire him twice, according to the Chicago Tribune.
This time, he’s a quitter, making the current charges moot.
In response, Mayor Lightfoot nailed it.
“Not a surprise that a man of hate — as John Catanzara has demonstrated over and over that he is — would run away from accountability,” she said in a statement.
FOP bylaws permit retired police personnel to serve as officers of the union. Catanzara remains popular among the rank and file.
A mayoral run gives him a mega-platform and a massive megaphone to burnish and grow his power. He can position himself as the chief spokesperson for a growing anti-Lightfoot contingent.
Here’s a taste of the credentials you won’t see in Catanzara’s campaign literature:
In one social media post, in response to the shooting of a Wayne State University police officer, he wrote: “Its seriously time to kill these (expletives).”
In another social media post about Muslims, he commented: “Savages they all deserve a bullet.”
In an interview with WBEZ, he declared the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection was a mere “inconvenience.” While he “wouldn’t have partaken in” the event, he suggested the 2020 presidential election was stolen.
Defending the rioters, he said, “If the worst crime here is trespassing, so be it. But to call these people treasonous is beyond ridiculous and ignorant.”
Those comments triggered an uproar, and he later apologized.
Catanzara will certainly be a non-traditional mayoral candidate. He is a political novice who brings zilch expertise in managing a large government agency, much less a city.
No matter. In these tense times, in a city in turmoil, Cantanzara is sure to appeal to voters in law enforcement and public safety, and other blue-collar, union jobs.
He can build on the national media profile he earned through his feckless crusade against the city’s vaccine mandate.
Get ready, Chicago, for a slash-and-burn campaign. It will be “us” against “them,” and “let’s take our city back” from “those people.” Catanzara will rage against Lightfoot and Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx for coddling criminals and succumbing to “wokeness.”
“This city is a shadow of its former self,” Catanzara told reporters last week. “It’s disgusting, and if we don’t do something to change it sooner rather than later, I don’t know that it’s ever recoverable.”
This kindred spirit of former President Donald J. Trump will fan the flames of racism, bigotry and fear. Sadly, that’s a campaign that may appeal in some quarters of this divided and divisive city.
Laura Washington is a political analyst for ABC-7 Chicago. Follow her on Twitter @mediadervish
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