Conservative Chicago Police Union President Joins Those Condemning Officer Who Killed George Floyd In Minneapolis

FOP Lodge Fraternal Order of Police Headquarters
The West Loop headquarters of the union for Chicago's 12,000 police officers. The newly elected president of the union has condemned the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. Robert WIldeboer / WBEZ
FOP Lodge Fraternal Order of Police Headquarters
The West Loop headquarters of the union for Chicago's 12,000 police officers. The newly elected president of the union has condemned the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. Robert WIldeboer / WBEZ

Conservative Chicago Police Union President Joins Those Condemning Officer Who Killed George Floyd In Minneapolis

Chicago’s new Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara, who was elected to represent rank-and-file officers in part because of his unwavering support of cops, on Thursday added his voice to leaders in Chicago condemning the actions of the Minneapolis police officer who killed George Floyd.

Floyd died Monday after Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for almost eight minutes. Video of the killing sparked protests in Minnesota that continued through Thursday night, as well as smaller protests throughout the country, including one Thursday evening on Chicago’s South Side.

“I don’t think there’s a single policeman in this country that would say that that was sound police tactics in any way, shape or form,” Catanzara told WBEZ on Thursday. “It’s not taught anywhere. That’s basically deadly force. And that situation didn’t call for the use of deadly force.”

Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown, meanwhile, said Thursday he spent the day taking steps to ensure an incident like the one in Minneapolis doesn’t happen in Chicago.

“What we’ve done today is reminded our department of our oath, that we’re sworn to an oath and that it’s always the right time to do the right thing and everyone deserves a measure of respect,” Brown said. We want to convey the message, that will not be tolerated here in Chicago, period. It won’t be, not under my command.”

In a cell phone video of Floyd’s final moments, other Minneapolis police officers can be seen taking no action to intervene while Floyd pleads for his life and bystanders beg Chauvin to take his knee off of Floyd’s neck. Brown said he wanted to make sure Chicago officers knew that it is not OK for them to stand by and be “complicit in misconduct.”

That’s really an important message, that being complicit, you will be held accountable as well as those officers that do the wrong thing,” Brown said. “It’s our duty to stop officers from doing the wrong things as much as it is for us not to do the wrong things ourselves.”

Brown made his comments Thursday evening, shortly after a protest over the Floyd killing took place on Chicago’s South Side. Brown said one person was arrested for disorderly conduct during the protest but the event “otherwise ended peacefully.”

Earlier on Thursday, Brown announced that he was requiring all Chicago officers to watch the video documenting Floyd’s killing, and said he had ordered department-wide training on “positional asphyxiation,” to ensure no officer lays someone on the ground and “chokes off their blood supply and air supply.”

“What took place in Minneapolis earlier this week is absolutely reprehensible and tarnishes the badge nationwide,” Brown said in a statement. “I want to make it clear that this behavior is not acceptable in Chicago, will not be tolerated under my command and quite frankly has no place in law enforcement anywhere.”

Brown said CPD has been working “very hard” to restore trust with the community and the killing in Minneapolis makes the department’s job “more difficult.”

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said video of the incident in Minneapolis brought back the “trauma” of seeing the dashcam video of Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke killing black teenager Laquan McDonald as McDonald was walking away from police with a knife in his hand. She said she believed the video was re-traumatizing for many in Chicago.

Lightfoot was heavily involved in Chicago police reform efforts in the aftermath of the McDonald video release, and her reform work provided a platform for her successful run for mayor. Former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced he would not seek re-election on the eve of Van Dyke’s murder trial.

The release of the video showing McDonald’s death at the hands of Chicago police prompted weeks of protests.

Van Dyke was ultimately convicted of second-degree murder for killing McDonald, Lightfoot, who is a former federal prosecutor, would not say whether she thinks the officer in Minneapolis should be charged with murder but said she hopes prosecutors in Minnesota are “looking hard at this case.”

Catanzara praised President Donald Trump for tweets promising an expedited federal investigation into George Floyd’s death and vowing that justice will be served. The police union leader called the president’s tweets, “spot on.”

Lightfoot said while watching the mass protests unfold in Minnesota this week she kept thinking “this could be our city. This could be us going through this incredibly challenging time.”

“To watch the entirety of that video, and to see the life leave another human being on the ground, begging for, literally begging for his life, saying he ‘can’t breathe’ … It sickened me, and I want to make sure that something like that doesn’t happen in our city,” Lightfoot said on Thursday.

Lightfoot said she had spoken with Brown about the importance of building “authentic relationships” with Chicago residents, so that if a horrific incident occurs in Chicago “you have a well of goodwill, that you can draw upon in trying to defuse” anger at the police.

Patrick Smith is a reporter on WBEZ’s Criminal Justice Desk. Follow him @pksmid. Email him at psmith@wbez.org.

Chip Mitchell reports out of WBEZ’s West Side studio about criminal justice. Follow him at @ChipMitchell1.