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Controversial Chicago police union leader, facing possible dismissal, says he will quit the department and run for mayor

Catanzara later told the Chicago Sun-Times he plans to stay on as head of the union that represents over 17,000 current and former rank-and-file officers.

Facing possible dismissal from the Chicago Police Department, the controversial head of the city’s largest police union abruptly announced Monday that he plans to retire and run for mayor.

John Catanzara, a veteran patrol officer elected in May 2020 as president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7, made the announcement during the first day of testimony in disciplinary proceedings.

Catanzara stands accused of a string of departmental rule violations, including making a series of obscene and inflammatory social media posts and generating false reports against superior officers, most notably former Supt. Eddie Johnson.

During Monday’s hearing at the headquarters of the Chicago Police Board, city lawyers depicted him as an insubordinate officer who has “thumbed his nose” at directives and police leaders.

But Catanzara’s attorneys presented him as a “classic whistleblower” whose complaints about high-ranking officers have fallen on deaf ears. While they conceded that his social media posts were at times “vulgar” and “unsettling,” his lawyers insisted his words were “protected First Amendment speech.”

The fiery union leader, who has most recently clashed with Mayor Lori Lightfoot over her vaccine mandate, faced hours of cross-examination, and his lawyers announced that he had planned to present his own closing arguments.

But toward the end of the hearing, Catanzara’s attorneys told Lauren Freeman, the hearing officer overseeing the case, that his client wanted to provide a statement. Catanzara then announced that he planned to file paperwork Tuesday morning to retire.

“This has all been a farce from the get-go,” he said of the disciplinary case. “The decision’s already been made.”

The hearing was then suspended as both sides met with Freeman. She later announced that a conference call would be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday to determine what happens next.

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