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The [Monday] Papers

"President Donald Trump has tweeted his congratulations to Chicago Police Officer John Catanzara, a 25-year veteran of the force who was voted the next president of Chicago's Fraternal Order of Police on Saturday," NBC5 Chicago reported last month.

I'm not sure what job Trump thinks Catanzara always gets done, but he is currently - as he was when elected - not even on the job. Catanzara is under suspension for "allegations related to a 2018 police report he filed against former Superintendent Eddie Johnson. Catanzara accused Johnson of violating the law when he allowed marchers onto the Dan Ryan Expressway during an anti-violence march."

That's the least of it, as far as Catanzara's record goes.

"Catanzara was . . . recommended for firing in 2012 after Independent Police Review Authority investigators determined he had been working security at an Old Town restaurant while he was on medical leave from CPD with a back injury. The board found him guilty but opted to suspend him for 20 days."

Also:

"Three years ago, Catanzara was reprimanded for posting a picture of himself on social media dressed in his police uniform holding an American flag and a homemade sign that read, 'I stand for the anthem. I love the American flag. I support my President and the Second Amendment.'"

Oh, but that barely scratches the surface:

"Catanzara also has been suspended multiple times since joining the department in 1995," CBS2 Chicago reports.

According to the Invisible Institute, a public website that contains all police misconduct records, Catanzara was disciplined at least eight times for misconduct between 2003 and 2013:

* He was once suspended for 30 days following an investigation into allegations of domestic abuse in 2003.

* He was reprimanded following an investigation into an allegation of excessive force in 2003.

* He was suspended for six days following an investigation into allegations of conduct unbecoming an officer by associating with a felon while off-duty in 2003.

* He was suspended for 20 days following an investigation into allegations of conduct unbecoming by associating with a felon while off-duty in 2004.

* He was suspended for 10 days for insubordination in 2005.

* He was suspended for 15 days following an investigation into an allegation of a personnel violation at an Old Town tavern in 2007.

* He was suspended for 20 days after the Chicago Police Board found him guilty of violating department rules by working as a private security guard while on medical leave for a back injury in 2008. Supt. Garry McCarthy had sought to fire him.

* He was suspended for 10 days following an investigation into miscellaneous personnel violations in 2013.

According to the Chicago Tribune, then-Police Supt. Jody Weis sought to fire Catanzara in 2008, accusing him of failing to follow orders to complete a psychological exam, but the Chicago Police Board cleared Catanzara of wrongdoing.

So at least two police chiefs tried to fire him.

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The Tribune last month:

"Records obtained by the Tribune show he had at least 35 complaints against him through mid-2017, many for personnel violations. He's also been suspended several times in his career, and past superintendents have tried twice to fire him.

"In August 2008, then-Superintendent Jody Weis sought Catanzara's firing on allegations that he did not follow orders to complete a psychological exam, according to Chicago Police Board records. But in February 2009, the board cleared Catanzara in a 5-3 decision.

"Three years later, then-Superintendent Garry McCarthy tried to fire him for working a side job as a security guard for a restaurant when he was supposed to be on medical leave for a back injury.

"The Police Board found him guilty in that case of several Police Department violations, board records show. But instead of firing him, the board voted 7-2 to suspend Catanzara for 20 days.

"The department in 2017 issued Catanzara a reprimand - among the lightest punishments a Chicago cop can face - for violating rules that prohibit officers from participating in any partisan political campaign or activity while on duty.

"In that case, he posted a photo of himself on Facebook in an apparent protest of NFL players who knelt during the national anthem at the start of games. The photo showed him in uniform holding an American flag as he stood in front of a marked Chicago police SUV."

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"To those who want to judge him, Chicago police Officer John Catanzara says you should 'probably shut your mouth' unless you've walked in his shoes," The Trib also reported last month.

If only he extended the same courtesy to the people we pay him to protect and serve.

*

"'He always fought the establishment,' said the Catanzara supporter, who declined to be identified because he's an active Chicago officer who is not authorized by the department to speak to the media. 'He is a guy that wants the brass to abide by the same rules that the patrolmen abide by . . . '"

That might be a more convincing argument if he wasn't such a rulebreaker himself.

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"A Chicago cop wearing a Trump jersey was jeered as he tried to explain an incendiary remark about why he opposes oversight of Chicago police," the Tribune reported in 2018.

"Officer John Catanzara, who wore a baseball jersey emblazoned with 'TRUMP' on the back and 'USA' on the front, said he wanted to clarify remarks he made at a previous hearing. If community oversight passed, he reportedly said at that meeting, 'We're coming for you.'

"Catanzara tried to explain the remark to the jeering crowd Tuesday night, saying it was 'ridiculous' to think he was trying to incite a riot. Later in a telephone call, Catanzara said that his original remark was a warning of plans to unseat any aldermen who vote for community oversight."

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"Since he was disciplined last fall, the veteran officer has remained outspoken and defiant, posting inflammatory material about women, welfare recipients and those who disagree with his politics," ProPublica reported in 2018.

"He has tangled with Facebook users who question him. 'Keep listening for that knock on the door,' he responded to one critic . . . "

Catanzara, 49, already is among the most disciplined officers in the department. The 23-year veteran has been suspended seven times for a total of 111 days.

He was named in at least one earlier complaint of racial or ethnic-targeted verbal abuse, but the allegation was not sustained.

In a brief phone call, Catanzara told ProPublica Illinois he was unaware of the investigations into his social media conduct.

"Don't really care either," he said. He hung up before addressing the complaints.

One of the new complaints was lodged by Catanzara's district commander, who alleged that Catanzara displayed "bigoted views" and "hostile remarks" on social media and sent "inappropriate emails" to the staff at Hubbard High School on the city's Southwest Side, where he worked as the school's officer.

Catanzara, assigned to the Chicago Lawn District, was removed from his position at the school after the flag post. He remains on patrol in that district, according to the police department.

"The accused officer has made posts on social media calling for the murder of college students, defamatory statements against those participating in social programs, and stated that officers should not attempt to chase offenders," according to the allegation, made on Sept. 28. The allegation also says Catanzara made "hostile remarks against Muslims, sexist remarks about women and liberals, and remarks about Michelle Obama."

And this number keeps climbing the deeper I go into the reporting: "Catanzara, an officer since January 1995, has been named in at least 46 misconduct complaints, records show.

"His suspensions range from six to 30 days for complaints that include insubordination and other issues. Only seven officers who have worked in the department as long have been suspended as often."

CPD's rank-and-file just elected one of their worst officers to represent them. Let that sink in before you came at me about riots and looting - at least some of which appears to have been perpetrated by Catanzara's like-minded compadres.

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Posted on June 1, 2020


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