Chicago Sun-Times



Fending off a tough challenger, a bombastic former patrol officer has won a second term as president of the union for 10,000 rank-and-file Chicago cops and 6,000 police retirees.

John Catanzara Jr. captured nearly 57% of the 7,192 votes for president of Fraternal Order of Police Chicago Lodge 7, WBEZ reported. He defeated Robert Bartlett, a detective who won 43% after six months of campaignin­g in which he warned fellow cops that Catanzara’s confrontat­ional approach was turning away potential union allies.

“Coppers today don’t go to union meetings, so they’re uninformed and opinionate­d and they get what they deserve,” said Patrick Murray, a retired officer who helped assemble Second City, a slate of challenger­s led by Bartlett.

“They’re going to get John Catanzara, a complete self-serving disaster,” said Murray, who lost to a member of Catanzara’s Vision and Voice slate in the race for financial secretary.

Catanzara, 54, did not immediatel­y respond to requests for comment. Results of the vote were announced Friday night after a month of balloting.

His slate also captured most other elected posts on the union’s board of directors, who will serve four-year terms and remain in office until 2027.

During his first term, Catanzara led a 28-member board with no Black members. His early moves included threatenin­g to expel a Black cop from the union for kneeling with protesters upset about George Floyd’s murder by Minneapoli­s police.

Catanzara also defended the Jan. 6 rioters at the U.S. Capitol. He apologized for those statements after a rebuke from the FOP’s national leader.

Later in 2021, the Police Board opened a hearing about whether to fire Catanzara, who was still a CPD member, due to alleged misconduct in 18 incidents — mostly Facebook postings that deployed vulgar or allegedly racist language. The hearing, scheduled for three days, ended after the first day with Catanzara’s retirement, a move that did not require him to step down from the presidency.

Catanzara also led resistance to Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s COVID-19 vaccinatio­n mandate for city employees, at one point likening it to Nazi methods, another statement for which he apologized.

During the vaccinatio­n fracas, Catanzara encouraged FOP members to disobey orders to report their vaccinatio­n status, leading some to be stripped of their police powers — and some members to accuse him of hypocrisy because he had been vaccinated.

But Catanzara, campaignin­g for reelection, said he had no regrets.

“Literally 3,200 officers were granted an exemption [from vaccinatio­n] because we … didn’t go hide in a corner like every other union in this city did,” Catanzara said in a YouTube video targeting cops this month. “I’m damn proud of that fight.”

Catanzara scored another victory — a win that had eluded his predecesso­r — by negotiatin­g big retroactiv­e paychecks for the city’s cops. He had help in contract talks from former schools chief Paul Vallas, an unpaid consultant to the union who was preparing to run for mayor.

But Bartlett, 48, complained that the 2.5% annual raises in that agreement lagged far behind inflation.

“The pay raises were only a half-percent more than the city was originally offering,” Bartlett told the Chicago Sun-Times. “I think we would have done far better in arbitratio­n.”

Catanzara also talked up his team’s conversion of a floor of the lodge into a “wellness center” for cops and their families to get profession­al counseling. At least 22 active CPD members have died by suicide since 2018.

During a second term, Catanzara said he would try to set up a long-envisioned Lodge 7 health insurance plan and build a union “campus” that includes a health care facility. Bartlett was not impressed.

“Is this going to be a Taj Mahal? His great castle?” Bartlett asked the Sun-Times. “We’re going to be spending exorbitant amounts of money, and he’s going to be raising our dues again.”

 ?? ASHLEE REZIN/SUN-TIMES FILE ?? Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 President John Catanzara speaks to reporters in October 2020.
ASHLEE REZIN/SUN-TIMES FILE Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 President John Catanzara speaks to reporters in October 2020.

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