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FOP protests Emanuel’s decision to ‘turn his back on the police’

Kevin Graham, president of the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police. | Sun-Times

Last month, FOP President Kevin Graham asked for a meeting with Police Supt. Eddie Johnson to "clarify when and how police officers will be disciplined for using force." | Sun-Times file photo

The Fraternal Order of Police is urging the rank-and-file police officers it represents to show up in force at the May 23 City Council meeting to underscore the union’s claim that Mayor Rahm Emanuel has “turned his back on the police.”

“Emanuel has turned his back on the police. He has put police officers and public in danger. Now, it’s time to confront him at the City Council meeting,” the union said.

In a flier distributed to its members, the union said buses will be leaving at 8:30 a.m. — from 51st and Wentworth, FOP headquarters at 1412 W. Washington and from Belmont and Western — to transport police officers en masse to City Hall.

“The Fraternal Order of Police is calling on all members to attend the Chicago City Council meeting on Wednesday, May 23, to demand that Mayor Rahm Emanuel back the police,” the flier states.

“This move by the FOP comes in response to the Chicago Police Board’s decision to put Officer Robert Rialmo in a no-pay status for a 2015 fatal shooting that was deemed ‘unjustified’ by COPA. Superintendent Eddie Johnson, experts and the FOP said the shooting was clearly justified,” the union flier states.

“The FOP is also protesting a possible move by Emanuel’s Corporation Counsel Ed Siskel to fire two highly respected police officers, Jack O’Keefe and John Wrigley, on bogus claims they lied under oath because they made slight errors in their testimony that had no effect on the legitimacy of the arrest. Wrigley was wounded in a 2005 shooting and received the Medal of Valor.”

The FOP’s bill of particulars against Emanuel also includes COPA’s decision to rule a 2012 shooting by Officer Brandon Ternand as unjustified and the consent decree the mayor is negotiating with retiring Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

The consent decree, now nine months in the making, is expected to culminate in federal court oversight over the Chicago Police Department and in the appointment of a federal monitor to ride herd over CPD.

“Emanuel’s civilian oversight board, COPA, is conducting bogus, politically motivated investigations, arbitrarily punishing officers,” the union flier states. “Emanuel is also selling officers out in a federal consent decree that would give anti-police groups a voice in police oversight. Emanuel’s corporation counsel is settling police misconduct cases that are clearly bogus and should go to trial.”

Police Supt. Eddie Johnson said after spending part of Tuesday afternoon with FOP President Kevin Graham honoring fallen officers in Washington, “I don’t really know where this is coming from.”

Johnson said “some of the basic facts” in the FOP flier “aren’t even right.”

“This a not the best way for the FOP to start a relationship with the new head of COPA and the new head of the Police Board, but that’s their call,” Johnson was quoted as saying in an emailed statement.

The superintendent said the city has a process to investigate allegations of police wrongdoing, and “We are in the middle of that process” with Rialmo.

“It’s important to allow that independent system of accountability to run its course,” he said.

Johnson argued that the reforms the city is making will ultimately make CPD a better department more capable of fighting crime because of a stronger bond with the neighborhood residents police officers serve.

“Both the Mayor and I have made sure that at each step, our officers and the FOP have had a seat at the table as those reforms are made,” he said.

Graham could not be reached for comment. Martin Preib, second vice president of the FOP, refused to comment on the provocative flier.

Next week’s protest underscores the political box the Emanuel finds himself in with nine months to go before the mayoral election.

He’s caught between police reform advocates demanding a strong consent decree with rigid mandates and timetables and the need to coax police officers out of their defensive crouch to combat violent crime.

Last month, Graham asked for a meeting with Johnson to “clarify when and how police officers will be disciplined for using force.”

The request came four days after Police Board member Eva-Dina Delgado sided with the Civilian Office of Police Accountability — and against Johnson — in recommending that Rialmo be fired for shooting a bat-wielding Quintonio LeGrier and LeGrier’s neighbor Bettie Jones in December 2015.

The FOP was infuriated by the decision, which places the decision on whether or not to fire Rialmo in the eight remaining Police Board members.

Preib branded Delgado’s ruling as “despicable and false” and said she “paralyzed the police.”

Graham argued that the decision placed officers and citizens in danger.

“Because of this decision by COPA and the board’s decision to uphold it, the city has abandoned the use of force model that police officers employ in the execution of their duties,” Graham wrote in a letter.

“The COPA and Police Board ruling, therefore, places our officers in a tenuous, dangerous position as well as members of the public as officers do not know if they will be disciplined for using appropriate levels of force. Many dire situations can result.”

The heater case landed in Delgado’s lap after Johnson met “multiple times” with Patricia Banks, acting administrator of COPA, in a failed attempt to find middle ground.

That’s not surprising considering their widely divergent views of the first police shooting to follow the November 2015 release of the Laquan McDonald shooting video.

After an exhaustive review of the evidence, COPA has ruled the shooting unjustified and raised questions about Rialmo’s version of events.

COPA concluded that, although LeGrier had a baseball bat in his hands, a “reasonable officer” would not have felt threatened because Rialmo was farther away from LeGrier than the officer claimed and did not swing the bat at Rialmo.

Johnson looked at the same evidence and ruled the shooting justified. He has called into question COPA’s entire investigatory process, arguing that the agency looked at the shooting with the luxury of hindsight, instead of analyzing Rialmo’s actions from his perspective in the moment.