Community organizations call for removal of president of DePaul-partnered police union


AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

Chicago Police officers cross the street in downtown Chicago, Wednesday, April 22, 2020.

Seventy-eight local and national organizations wrote a letter on Feb. 1 to the Chicago Police Board and Mayor Lori Lightfoot calling for the removal of the city’s Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara in light of his possible dismissal from CPD for racist comments.

The groups Muslim Advocates, CAIR Chicago, ACLU of Illinois, Illinois Muslim Civic Coalition and Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago headed the letter. 

The letter has been getting national attention, said CAIR Deputy Director Sufyan Sohel.

“I think the George Floyd murder really brought to issue of who are police officers,” Sohel said. “Why are Black and Brown communities treated differently? And what is this disconnect between our law enforcement and the communities that they are tasked to serve? And officer Catanzara just exemplifies some of that.”

Letter to Chicago Police Board Terminate Officer Catanzara by DePaulia on Scribd

Eighteen charges — totaling 72 violations of the CPD’s Rules and Regulations — were officially filed against Catanzara by CPD Superintendent David Brown on Jan. 27.

“Among the 18 charges, the Superintendent cited a social media post in which Catanzara referred to Muslims as ‘savages’ who ‘all deserve a bullet,’” the letter read. “When asked to apologize for this statement by members of Chicago’s Muslim community, he responded by referencing a graphic anti-Muslim trope about mutilating genitals and declaring ‘I could really give a damn what they think.’”

The letter said Catanzara’s recent comments are “entirely consistent with his entire career with the CPD.” He has at least 35 complaints alleging misconduct, according to documents obtained by the Chicago Tribune

“A man like Catanzara patrolling the streets of Chicago with a gun and impunity is a threat to the safety of all Chicagoans,” the letter read. “That’s why it is vital that the Chicago Police Board protect the people of Chicago by swiftly discharging him and that all city officials make clear that hostility, racism and overt calls to kill people based on their religion have no place in CPD.” 

When asked about the letter during an interview with WGN Radio, Catanzara said the concerns outlined in the letter were “irrelevant” to him.

“[Catanzara’s comment] signals to me that there’s a huge culture issue in our law enforcement,” Sohel said. “That these people may think this way and support individuals making these actions, and I, as a taxpayer and resident of Chicago, feel threatened. Are there other officers who see me as an other? Are there officers who see me as not really belonging?”

DePaul and FOP offer programs that help members of the union to earn their bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degrees. 

Participants are offered a 25 percent tuition discount by DePaul, and if the participants receive an “A” as their final grade, the City of Chicago offers a 75 percent tuition reimbursement — leading to a free degree, according to DePaul’s College of Law

The university declined to cut ties with the union in a June 23 message from Interim Provost Salma Ghanem. The DePaulia’s Editorial Board called for the administration to end the partnership in light of Catanzara’s comments defending the Capitol siege.

“DePaul embraces diversity and remains committed to providing an educational environment that is free from all forms of discrimination and harassment,” university spokesperson Kristin Matthews said. 

The FOP did not respond to The DePaulia’s request for further comment. 

The initial hearing status of Catanzara’s case is scheduled for Feb. 23.