The Crusader Newspaper Group

Chicago FOP elects just one Black person to its board

The Fraternal Order of Police, whose leader has long been criticized for inciting racial tensions, has just one Black person out of 27 members on its Board, according to a recent report from WBEZ.

WBEZ said it based its report on union and CPD records about the candidates.

The report said the FOP’s 7,250 lodge members at its March 3 election voted 27 new Board members, the majority of which were white men. The new Board includes six Latinos, one woman and one Black man.

The report identified the new Black Board member as Keith Carter, a retired detective who unsuccessfully ran for the Board three times in the past. The report said Carter ran for trustee on a slate that opposed President John Catanzara, Jr., who was re-elected for a second term.

Catanzara Jr., 54, captured nearly 57 percent of the 7,192 votes. His opponent, Robert Bartlett, a detective, took 43 percent after six months of campaigning, during which he warned fellow cops Catanzara’s confrontational style of leadership was turning away potential allies of the union.

The report said as part of his re-election campaign, Catanzara assembled a slate that included nine Latinos, three Blacks and four women.

Carter is the first Black elected to the Board since Sidney M. Davis, an evidence technician, won re-election as Recording Secretary in 2011 according to WBEZ.

The report also said since 2014, Black members have made at least 27 unsuccessful runs for the Board.

In the report, Carter credited his victory to his involvement in the union since 1994, when he agreed to represent his co-workers as a “watch representative” in a West Side patrol district known in those years as Monroe.

In past Board elections, Carter lost. In one race, he ran as part of a slate, but in the two races, Carter ran independently, according to the report.

The report further states Donnell Crenshaw, a South Side homicide detective who ran unsuccessfully for trustee seats in both 2020 and 2023, is among Black cops who say their lack of representation on the board contributes to low levels of Blacks participating in the lodge.

Crenshaw in the report said he considered running for trustee as part of Catanzara’s slate; that slate pushed 20 candidates for 17 trustee seats, a tactic that may have diluted support for the slate’s Black members.

The WBEZ report said other Black cops say the Union discouraged many Black officers by backing right-wing politicians, including Donald Trump. Some Black cops accused the Union of providing substandard legal representation to Black officers who face discipline. A Black woman who won a 2002 trustee race speculated that “she lost subsequent lodge elections because too many white officers discovered she was Black,” according to the report.

Citing figures from the Inspector General’s Office, the report said whites make up 43.4 percent of the Chicago Police Department’s sworn officers, compared to Blacks who make up 20 percent and Latinos who make up 31.9 percent. Asians make up 3.4 percent.

The report said the number of white officers on the force has been declining for decades. Black officers have been holding steady after a decade of decline while Latino officers have been increasing in numbers.

The FOP represents 10,000 rank-and-file Chicago cops and 6,000 police retirees. The organization has long been accused of racism in the way it treats its Black members.

During his first term, Catanzara led a 28-member Board that had no Black officers.

Catanzara has faced numerous complaints of misconduct during his 20- plus -year career as a CPD officer. In November 2021, Catanzara resigned from the CPD amid a disciplinary case against him for alleged departmental rule violations, inflammatory social media posts, and creating false reports against superior officers.

During the pandemic, Catanzara clashed with Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s vaccination mandate for police officers. He hinted at running for mayor to unseat her but never did.

Catanzara supported the officers who wrongfully raided the home of Anjanette Young, and he once threatened to expel a Black cop from the Union for kneeling with protesters upset about George Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis police.

Last month, the FOP hosted an event for Florida right-wing Governor Ron DeSantis, who eliminated two predominately Black Congressional Districts in Florida that now favor Republican candidates. DeSantis is expected to run for U.S. president in 2024.

The FOP has endorsed mayoral candidate Paul Vallas, whose law and order platform has drawn heavy support from Chicago’s wealthy business leaders and North Side residents whose neighborhoods have been rocked by crime under Mayor Lightfoot.

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