If any one story can encapsulate the zeitgeist of the state of policing in America, it is this one. John Catanzara, the president of the Chicago police union, is facing at least two disciplinary charges. One is related to a social media post in which he referred to Muslims as “savages” and said, “They all deserve a bullet.” The other is related to criminal charges that he filed a false police report against another police officer, then-Superintendent Eddie Johnson.
Disciplinary charges follow an IA investigation into Catanzara who allegedly claimed that Superintendent Eddie Johnson allowed protesters onto the Dan Ryan Expressway. This will be the third time that the President of the police union has faced firing. Two prior superintendents have tried and failed to get Catanzara tossed from the force. The Civilian Office of Police Accountability recommended Catanzara’s firing after he made incendiary comments against Muslims.
Is it Illegal to Make Incendiary Comments About Muslims?
Not exactly, no. You cannot make false accusations against individual Muslims, harass someone based on their Muslim heritage, or deny someone their civil rights based on their Muslim heritage. Of course, the fear is that someone like Catanzara, who made comments that Muslims were “savages” and deserved to be shot, is not someone who would uphold his duty to Muslims or treat them fairly when dealing with them on the job. Since just about all states are at-will employment states, you can be fired for making these kinds of incendiary comments on social media and there is not a thing you can do about that.
From the police department’s perspective, having the police union president out on patrol or handling cases is a serious liability. If Catanzara were involved in any dealings with Muslims, his credibility would be called into question during trial.
“Sir, did you say that Muslims were savages that deserved to be shot? If so, how can we trust you to have an objective perspective on the defendant in this case?” And so, any defense attorney would bring up Catanzara’s comments for a jury to hear with screenshots of the comments from his social media page. So, there is basically nothing you can do with a guy like Catanzara. You cannot put him in uniform because if he injures someone, the department will be liable. Further, his credibility in a courtroom is next to worthless, so any arrest he made would likely not lead to a conviction. Nonetheless, the other police officers in the department saw fit to elect him as president of the police union, which is all you need to know about the Chicago police force.
A separate question is whether or not Catanzara violated the law when he made false accusations against a fellow police officer. In that case, they would have to prove that Catanzara knowingly lied as opposed to baselessly claimed. This is why politicians are allowed to make incendiary claims against others without proof.
Talk to a Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have been charged with filing a false police report against your boss, call David Freidberg, Chicago criminal defense attorney today, at (312) 560-7100 to schedule a free consultation and discuss your options moving forward.