The embattled president of Chicago’s police union, who once defended the Capitol riot as a mere “inconvenience” devoid of violence and referred to Muslims as “savages” on social media, retired from the department Tuesday morning—then claimed he’s running for mayor of the Windy City.
“Finally!!! Let’s go Brandon,” John Catanzara wrote in retirement paperwork filed Tuesday, referring to the anti-Biden chant that has become a right-wing slogan.
The strategic maneuver may have rescued him from being fired—and allowed him to remain a union boss—after he had largely evaded accountability for dozens of misconduct complaints during his career as a Chicago cop that spanned more than two decades.
His resignation followed a grueling day of testimony before the Chicago Police Board over a series of allegations about false police reports and inflammatory social media posts that at times encouraged violence.
“I am walking away from my job as a police officer once and for all, and 27 years are over and done with. It's bittersweet but it was the right thing to do,” he said Monday night, according to the Chicago Tribune.
The proceedings Monday were related to allegations that Catanzara had violated Chicago Police Department rules with incendiary social media posts, including one that referred to Muslims as “savages” and others that made false reports against high-ranking officers.
Superintendent David Brown filed charges to fire him in January, describing a pattern of misconduct that damaged the department. The Chicago Police Board hearing, which kicked off Monday, was expected to continue for a total of three days although disciplinary action wasn’t expected until next year, the Tribune reported.
In a 2016 Facebook post, Catanzara posted a link to an article about a police officer’s shooting, and wrote, “WTF it is seriously time to kill these motherfuckers.”
In a post disparaging Muslims in January 2017, Cantanzara referred to a video of a woman being stoned and wrote, “Savages they all deserve a bullet.”
Catanzara also shared a transphobic meme on Facebook in 2019 that featured a person cowered over and read, “When you get shot in the groin by a rubber bullet and your made-up gender doesn’t protect your willie.”
In June 2020, a Civilian Office of Police Accountability report found that Catanzara’s social media behavior had “the potential to create problems in maintaining the discipline and harmony in the Department.”
“Department members are as diverse as Chicago itself and include many of the same groups Officer Catanzara openly disparages including Muslims, Black and Gay people. Officer Catanzara’s speech proves his inability to serve the public impartially and therefore COPA recommends separation for Officer Catanzara,” the report states.
Defending the 2017 post about Muslims on Monday, he said that he was referring to people who support “Sharia law.”
That unapologetic attitude was on display through much of the hearing, as Catanzara told the board, “I don’t deny that the language used would be categorized as crass or vulgar to many people, but if that was a fireable offense, our mayor would be fired.”
Explaining the decision to reporters Monday night, Catanzara insisted that the cards were stacked against him, telling the Tribune, “It was pretty evident very early on that this cake was already baked.”
Rather than formally apologize or recant his incendiary statements, Catanzara appeared to look at retirement as a kind of golden ticket to avoid further retribution: “No one will be able to touch me,” he said Monday.
“This has all been a farce from the get-go,” he added. “There was never a possibility under God’s green earth that I was ever going to give this mayor the ability to utter the words, ‘I fired him.’”
Catanzara, a veteran patrol officer who was elected as president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 in May last year, was suspended from the police force in February.
Catanzara has been tangled up in a long list of complaints filed against him since he became a Chicago cop in 1995, but will continue on in his role as FOP president, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
After hours of cross-examination on Monday, the union leader’s lawyers said that Catanzara wanted to present his own closing arguments, which is when he announced his retirement.
“I informed them of my intention to retire first thing tomorrow morning and put an end to this charade, which we already knew what the outcome was going to be,” Catanzara told WLS-TV after the hearing.
Poking at his longstanding contentious relationship with Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Catanzara added on Monday that he intends to challenge Lightfoot for the post in 2023.
“I’m running against the mayor to change this damn city, because she is literally not only steering into an iceberg, she is literally telling them full steam ahead,” he told the outlet. “So something’s got to change.”
In recent months, Catanzara blasted Lightfoot over vaccine requirements, while encouraging the roughly 17,000 current and former rank-and-file officers he represents as FOP president to “hold the line,” and not to comply with the mandate by withholding their vaccination status.
“We’re in America, goddamn it,” he said in August when Lightfoot announced the Oct. 15 deadline for COVID-19 vaccinations for city employees. “We don’t want to be forced to do anything. Period. This ain’t Nazi fucking Germany [where they say], ‘Step into the fucking showers. The pills won’t hurt you.’ What the fuck?”
Responding to Catanzara’s announcement of his retirement plans, Lightfoot suggested that Catanzara was responsible for his own ruin.
“I want to make sure that our officers, particularly those young officers, are the best trained and best protected and best supported for our police department in the country,” she told WLS-TV on Monday night. “That's what we have to be about. Not somebody who has ruined his own career.”