Chicago police at Trump Tower; John Catanzara is head of the FOP
Maybe Chicago cops would have a better relationship with residents if they didn’t love a certain former president so very much. Credit: Dgmorn /

Having been exposed to the wit and wisdom of John Catanzara for a couple of years, I’ve reached a rather obvious conclusion about the president of the local Fraternal Order of Police.

It would be better off for everybody—Catanzara included—if he just hurried up and moved to Florida, where he’ll probably be living soon enough, as Dr. D, my podcast producer, predicted months ago.

As it is, Catanzara looks a little lost here in Chicago, what with his knee-jerk opposition to all things Democratic, his blind allegiance to MAGA, and his bizarre affinity for making Nazi metaphors.

But down in Florida? Man, he’d be the king of the castle. Probably get elected governor—at which point he’d be free to mandate that localities not mandate masks or vaccines—apparently a mandate that MAGA loves to make.

OK, for those who don’t follow the news . . .

Out of nowhere, Mayor Lori Lightfoot recently proclaimed that by October 15 all city employees (police officers included) would have to be vaccinated against COVID. She now apparently recognizes the virus as a problem again—now that Lollapalooza has conveniently come and gone.

Looking for comment, Fran Spielman—Sun-Times city hall reporter—turned to Catanzara. And Catanzara did not disappoint, going full MAGA, with f-bombs flying and everything.

“We’re in America, goddamn it,” he said. “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?”

Only the Sun-Times didn’t write “Nazi fucking Germany,” they wrote “Nazi f—ing Germany” ’cause they’re a family newspaper, dammit! And they want to protect readers from the kinds of things those same readers say every day. Even though it can get kind of tricky. Like when they turned “what the fuck” into “what the f—k” as opposed to “what the f—.” Perhaps they weren’t 100 percent certain readers could figure it out without that special k.

But I digress . . .

Once Catanzara’s comments went public, the s–t hit the fan, as the Sun-Times might put it. And Catanzara had to apologize.

As MAGA apologies go, it was so-so. At least it was better than the one Congresswoman Mary Miller made after she said, “Hitler was right.” Catanzara did say he was wrong to make an inappropriate analogy—but then he sorta blamed Spielman by saying he thought the conversation was off the record. As though she made him say it.

At this point, I must remind you that Catanzara was elected president of the FOP in 2020 after a heated runoff against Kevin Graham, the incumbent, in which both candidates battled to see who could be the biggest suck-up to Donald Trump.

Tough battle. Graham met with Trump in the White House. And was photographed hanging on to every word, no matter how batshit crazy, that came out of Trump’s mouth.

He was only to be outdone by Catanzara, who took to walking around with a “Cops for Trump” T-shirt.

Far be it from me to give advice to members of the Fraternal Order of Police as to who they choose to lead them. But you might want to reconsider your bizarre affinity to Trump, seeing as he’s reviled by most of the residents in the city you work and live in. That is, if you want to expand your base of support beyond a handful of southwest- and northwest-side precincts.

Having said all of that, let me say this . . .

Catanzara has a kernel of a point. There is something a little dictatorial about a mayor unilaterally imposing a vaccine mandate on city workers. Even if it’s the right thing to do. 

And I can understand why some police officers might be upset to be on the receiving end of such a mayoral mandate. This is the sort of top-down command the mayor makes to teachers—with most of corporate and editorial Chicago, not to mention Catanzara’s buddies at Fox—cheering her on all the way.

Now Chicago police officers are discovering what it’s like to be treated like Chicago Public Schools teachers. And they don’t like it one bit.

As a union man, I believe such mandates should at least be discussed with the rank and file, as opposed to dropping from the heavens like bolts of lightning.

After all, leaders of the pro sports leagues discuss COVID policies with their employees. Wouldn’t it be nice if Mayor Lightfoot treated city workers with the sort of respect that Adam Silver, commissioner of the NBA, treats basketball players?

So, yes, I understand why police officers might be put off by Lightfoot’s mandate. Even as I urge every single police officer to get vaccinated ASAP—if they haven’t done so already. No matter what bullshit about the vaccine they may be hearing on Fox or YouTube.

However, this outrage over mandates from the mayor seems a little, I don’t know, selective, coming from Catanzara and the FOP.

In his apology for his “Nazi fucking Germany” comments, Catanzara said, “We need to learn from our history. We cannot let government dictate our freedoms.”

You know what’s an even greater infringement on the freedom of police officers? Making them pee into a cup to see whether they’ve smoked a joint.

And that’s what the police department has been making police officers do for years—routinely testing cops for marijuana and other drugs. For that matter, the fire department makes firefighters pee into cups as well.

It’s all part of the insane war on drugs that our country has been waging for as long as I can remember, dictating things we can and cannot do. Generally enforced, I have to add, by police officers who pull you over to see if you—God forbid—have a joint in your purse. Or your pocket.

Talk about infringements on our liberties. It sure would have helped to have had Catanzara, or any liberty-loving leader of the FOP, speak out against those impositions on our freedoms.

But as I learned long ago, libertarians and conservatives are generally nowhere to be found when the government really infringes on the rights of ordinary citizens.

Guess they only love liberty when it fits the MAGA agenda—which means they don’t really love liberty at all.