Controversial Chicago police union chief retires from the Chicago Police Department

John Catanzara, the head of Chicago’s largest police union, has carried out his promise to retire from the force rather than go through with a disciplinary hearing that could have ended with him being fired.

John Catanzara
John Catanzara, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 in Chicago, spoke in front of the union’s headquarters on June 26, 2020, as Black police retirees protested his leadership. WBEZ
John Catanzara
John Catanzara, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 in Chicago, spoke in front of the union’s headquarters on June 26, 2020, as Black police retirees protested his leadership. WBEZ

Controversial Chicago police union chief retires from the Chicago Police Department

John Catanzara, the head of Chicago’s largest police union, has carried out his promise to retire from the force rather than go through with a disciplinary hearing that could have ended with him being fired.

The head of Chicago’s largest police union officially submitted his paperwork to retire from the police department on Tuesday, after saying he would rather leave the force than go through with a disciplinary hearing that he called a “farce.”

John Catanzara said he would remain president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 and that he plans to run for mayor against Mayor Lori Lightfoot, with whom he has engaged in a bitter war of words over a host of issues. Most recently, the two battled over Catanzara’s call for his officers to refuse Lightfoot’s order to inform the department of their COVID-19 vaccination status.

According to documents posted online by WGN-TV Catanzara wrote “Let’s go Brandon” in the remarks section of a personnel action request confirming his retirement. Catanzara is a vocal supporter of former President Donald Trump, and the “Brandon” phrase is used in right-wing circles as a stand-in for a profanity aimed at President Joe Biden.

The Chicago Police Board hearing that started Monday centered on Catanzara’s alleged actions and online statements; He compared the city’s employee vaccine mandate to Nazi Germany, called Muslims “savages (who) deserve a bullet,” and appeared in police uniform to promote Trump.

Catanzara said he believed he would not get a fair hearing and that he would almost certainly be fired — as recommended by Police Superintendent David Brown — and he did not want to give Lightfoot that satisfaction.

“I will have my vindication when I tell her to get the hell out of my office and give me the keys in 2023,” he told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Under union bylaws, elected positions in the union, including the one the 53-year-old Catanzara now holds, can be held by retired officers who are collecting their pensions. Catanzara’s attorney, Tim Grace, said a felony conviction could jeopardize his pension, but that he can collect his pension by retiring and he could even collect his pension if the disciplinary process had continued and resulted in Catanzara’s firing.

Catanzara has been a police officer for 27 years. He was elected to a three-year term as union president in 2020.