FOP SAYS ‘DOZENS’ OF OFFICERS UNFAIRLY STRIPPED OF POWERS SINCE GEORGE FLOYD’S DEATH
The Fraternal Order of Police has filed a complaint with the Illinois Labor Relations Board to protest the Chicago Police Department’s decision to strip “dozens” of officers of their police powers during investigations into complaints filed against them since the death of George Floyd.
Officers sidelined while investigations against them are pending include the officer accused of punching activist Miracle Boyd in the face during a confrontation at the now-removed Christopher Columbus statue in Grant Park.
Also in that group: cops accused of dragging a woman out of her car by her hair at the Brickyard Mall, then kneeling on her neck, and an officer photographed while giving someone the finger.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot has called for firing the officer photographed flipping off demonstrators. She has similarly condemned widely circulated video of the Brickyard incident.
FOP President John Catanzara argued none of those officers should have been punished before investigations are complete.
“We filed an unfair labor practice complaint on the stripping of police powers — of all officers since the beginning of May. It’s not just a handful of people. There’s been dozens of officers unfairly stripped. ... There’s no rhyme or reason to it. It’s just strip as many people as possible at the whim” of the mayor and the powers that be, Catanzara said.
The Brickyard video has been roundly condemned as an example of excessive force. But Catanzara said there were “valid reasons” for those officers’ actions.
“They absolutely were looting. There is confirmation that the subject who was seen breaking the window was in the car. The hammer was in the car that was used. They were stopping that vehicle for a reason . ... It almost ran over officers who attempted to initially stop it and got cornered at the other end of the parking lot. And that’s where the video picks up,” he said.
“Past practice was always that you would be stripped if your actions were going to lead to criminal charges or firing. Nothing that was done at the Brickyard [rises to the level of] criminal charges. They’re trumping this stuff up. There’s no validity to say that anything that was done there that day is even disciplinable in our estimation, let alone fireable.”
The mayor’s office on Tuesday responded to Catanzara, saying the police department “takes all necessary actions based on the individual circumstances of each alleged incident,” and only after an initial investigation by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability or CPD’s Bureau of Internal Affairs.
“The city and Chicago Police Department will continue to work with the union on any instances where they believe officers should not have been relieved of their police powers.”
Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th), the mayor’s City Council floor leader, was among those condemning the behavior in the Brickyard video.
The mall is in his ward.
Villegas changed his tune after hearing Catanzara’s version of events.
“If they were, indeed, looting, obviously the police officers had every right to pull ’em over and do what they had to do as it relates to making sure there is law and order,” Villegas said Tuesday.
“My issue was the officer pulling the lady out of her car by her hair and then putting his knee on her back. Maybe that’s how they were trained. But the car wasn’t going anywhere. Everybody was right there. It would have just been, in my opinion, a little easier to pull ’em out. … We have to do a better job as it relates to training because those types of visuals can be taken out of context.”
The hair-dragging incident occurred during a tumultuous weekend that saw demonstrations devolve into looting and mayhem that started in downtown and River North and spread to Chicago neighborhoods.
The woman, identified as Mia Wright, has said she was in the front passenger seat of her cousin’s car when police, for no apparent reason, smashed the windows with batons and ordered everyone out.
Flanked by family members, attorneys and supporters, Mia Wright talks to reporters in June at the Brickyard Mall. Wright offered details of what she called a violent encounter with Chicago police earlier that week.