The president of the Fraternal Order of Police said Monday he has talked to all of the rank-and-file police officers who, as he put it, “guarded” U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush’s South Side campaign office and is more convinced than ever they did nothing wrong.
FOP President John Catanzara said the officers accused by Mayor Lori Lightfoot of sleeping on a couch, popping popcorn and drinking coffee in Rush’s burglarized office while looters had a field day in the same strip mall were in the parking lot of a Home Depot at 87th Street and the Dan Ryan Expressway earlier on the night of May 31.
Then, “at some point in the night, they were reassigned to 55th and State Street … 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,” Catanzara said.
“Who made the call is what I want to know. And did the same person have a conversation with any of Bobby Rush’s people? That’s why we have FOIA requests already tendered to find that information out. She can say it’s not true. But is she gonna issue an apology when it turns out to be otherwise?”
At an unrelated news conference Monday, Lightfoot was asked about claims the officers were directed by someone from Rush’s office to “come protect it … not during the looting, but at a different time.”
“I believe that allegation is simply not true,” the mayor said.
Catanzara countered he has personally talked to “more than eight” of the rank-and-file officers who were in Rush’s office early on June 1 and has urged all of them to turn themselves in to CPD’s Bureau of Internal Affairs.
“They told me point-blank that they arrived … late at night after being at Home Depot for a couple of hours. … When they got there, they went around the back side of the mall to check all of the doors there. They came around the front. They did a sweep and chased out the last handful of people that were still in stores and got ’em off the property. And once everything was clear, they all kind of started taking some chairs out of some of the looted stores to sit down in the parking lot,” Catanzara said.
“But at some point, the temperature dropped. I believe it got into the low 50s that night. It got pretty chilly. Some of ’em did no more than walk in, use the bathroom and walk back out. Other ones obviously did sit down and they made themselves coffee. Sorry. It was pretty damn chilly outside. They had nothing to eat. They made some popcorn.”
Catanzara argued the entire narrative dramatically recounted by Lightfoot and Rush was a “ridiculous joke to slander and push the issue for licensing down in Springfield.” He said “several officers” were outside Rush’s office “maintaining a force for nobody. … There was nobody in the mall area” while the other officers stayed inside.
As for the officer shown sleeping on Rush’s couch while another put his head on a desk in the office, Catanzara said they were exhausted. They had already worked a 13.5-hour day and were due back at work four hours later on what was supposed to be their day off.
The FOP president wasn’t the only one defending the officers accused of relaxing in Rush’s office.
Ald. Anthony Napolitano (41st), a former Chicago police officer and firefighter, was interviewed on WGN-TV Monday with two boxes of popcorn and a popcorn machine behind him.
The show-and-tell interview was Napolitano’s actual and symbolic way of defending the accused officers.