Chicago police union hit by internal strife

Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara wants his predecessor Kevin Graham removed from the FOP board — and the union.

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Former FOP President Kevin Graham (left) and John Catanzara, his successor

Kevin Graham (left) lost his re-election bid for president of the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police to John Catanzara (right).

Sun-Times file photos

John Catanzara’s election as president of the Fraternal Order of Police has turned the union’s cold war with Mayor Lori Lightfoot into a deep freeze.

But that apparently pales in comparison to the battle raging within the police union between Catanzara and ousted predecessor Kevin Graham.

Sources said Catanzara is seeking to have Graham removed from the FOP board — and from the union itself. Those sources also say he has accused his predecessor of leaving behind a camera in the president’s office that, Catanzara believes, has been used to spy on him since his election last month.

The sources said Graham was presented with the charges at Tuesday’s union board meeting.

If found guilty by a three-member investigating committee — composed of First Vice-President Mike Mette, Second Vice-President Dan Gorman and Trustee Tim Fitzpatrick — and approved by the FOP board, Graham will be removed from the board and kicked out of the union he led for the last three years. His police pension would not be impacted.

Mette and Gorman ran with Catanzara.

Graham characterized the dispute as “very petty,” adding, “I truly have not done anything wrong, but it’s not a good situation.”

He acknowledged there are cameras at FOP Lodge 7 headquarters at 1412 W. Washington St. — but only for security.

“I can tell you this: I had no control over any camera in the building,” he said.

Graham laughed out loud when asked whether Catanzara is paranoid.

“I really have said all I can say. I’m doing my best to consult with an attorney. Until my attorney takes a look at things, I really can’t make a comment,” he said.

Catanzara is one of the most frequently-disciplined officers in the history of the Chicago Police Department. He is believed to be the first police union president ever elected while stripped of his police powers.

Asked Wednesday about the charges he filed against Graham, Catanzara was tight-lipped.

“I’m not gonna speak about internal union matters. That’s not a conversation I’m willing to have,” Catanzara said.

“We have a process for addressing charges that are filed against members as far as the union is concerned. That process will be followed according . . . That’s all I’m gonna say on that matter.”

Catanzara was asked again whether he believes Graham left a camera behind in the president’s office and, if so, why?

“I’m not gonna discuss that,” he said.

He called back a few hours later to stress he never said a word about a camera in his office, though the Sun-Times never said he had; that information came from several other union sources.

It’s not the first time the union representing rank-and-file CPD officers has been wracked by internal divisions.

In 2014, then-FOP President Mike Shields was suspended for making the explosive charge that two police contracts handed down by an independent arbitrator had been “rigged” in the city’s favor.

Two years later, Shields won a $21,600 jury award in a lawsuit claiming he was removed from office for exposing union corruption.

He had previously obtained a $100,000 legal settlement from the state in the same lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court.

“The allegations [about rigged police contracts] are still, to this day, 100 percent true,” Shields told the Sun-Times in 2017 after launching an ill-fated attempt to reclaim the union presidency won by Graham.

Another dustup among current and former FOP leadership occurred in October 2018. Martin Preib, at time the union’s second vice president, filed a charge against former president Dean Angelo, Sr.

Preib alleged Angelo was out of line when he spoke to reporters during the trial of former officer Jason Van Dyke. Angelo, acting as spokesman for the Van Dyke family, was eventually cleared of the charge by the union’s board.

Contributing: Sam Charles

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