A photo shared on social media this week appears to show a Chicago Police officer, in uniform, holding an American flag next to a sign reading, “I stand for the anthem, I love the American flag, I support my president and the 2nd Amendment.”
The photo — which a Chicago Police spokesman called a violation of department policy — went viral on social media Wednesday, marking Chicago’s latest chapter in a national debate over whether the silent protest of professional athletes taking a knee during the national anthem is a sign of disrespect to the country.
The image was posted Tuesday afternoon to the Chicago Code Blue Facebook page, which vocally advocates support for law enforcement. In recent days, the page included several posts critical of NFL players in their protest of police brutality against people of color.
Just two days earlier, a separate social media photo showed two African-American officers in uniform “taking a knee” alongside an Englewood community activist in the lobby of a South Side precinct.
Department officials said the officers in both cases will face reprimands for their political statements. Under CPD policy, officers are barred from “any partisan political campaign or activity” while in uniform.
The officer in the photo with the flag, John Catanzara, did not respond to requests for comment.
“What is political about my pic? It’s patriotic,” Catanzara wrote in a Facebook post in response to criticism from another user. “There is a difference but clearly not everyone understands that.”
Catanzara, who has received 22 CPD honors and awards over his career, was recommended for firing by the department in 2012, after Independent Police Review Authority investigators determined he had been working security at an Old Town neighborhood bar while he was on medical leave from CPD with a back injury, according to Chicago Police Board records.
The board found him guilty but instead opted to suspend him for 20 days.
Efforts by the Chicago Sun-Times to identify the officers shown kneeling in the photo that surfaced Sunday have been unsuccessful. Aleta Clark, the activist who was photographed with those officers, said she didn’t know their names.
“Yes, they are cops, but they have morals and their morals encouraged them to kneel,” Clark said. “They knew what they were standing for, and accepted what came with it.”
Mayor Rahm Emanuel said on Tuesday that by kneeling, the officers in the photo were caught between principles “in conflict.” But he supported the decision to reprimand them.
CPD spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said on Wednesday that the CPD will remind officers about expressing political views “through a roll call training.”
“As we have said before, the rules prohibiting officers from making political statements while in uniform will be applied consistently,” Guglielmi said. “This will be no different.”
A spokesman for the Fraternal Order of Police, the union that represents rank-and-file CPD officers, declined to comment on the discipline in either case.
The kneeling pose became controversial last fall, when NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick chose last season to take a knee during the national anthem. Several other players have chosen to make similar protests during the anthem this year, prompting an outraged series of tweets from President Donald Trump over the weekend that seemed to galvanize players.
“The NFL has all sorts of rules and regulations. The only way out for them is to set a rule that you can’t kneel during our National Anthem!” the president tweeted on Tuesday.
Chicago Police officers have not been immune from being swept up in the incendiary debate. In January, supervisors reminded all officers about political discourse rules after a Twitter user posted a picture of a CPD vehicle parked near an Inauguration Day protest with a red “Make America Great Again” hat on the dashboard.