The editorial that appeared in the Chicago Tribune on Tuesday, February 7, 2017 titled “Rewriting Chicago Police Union Contract,” got one fact right: “Chicago cops do a dangerous and demanding job.” Other than that, the editorial presented a one sided view that seemed only to rely on the distorted and biased interpretation of the Police Accountability Task Force. Even worse, the Tribune editorial board made false assertions about our union’s point of view without even speaking to us. Talk about “fake news.”
Contrary to the editorial’s assertion that “both sides know those contracts need to be scrubbed of provisions that have been used to shield bad cops from the consequences of misconduct,” the FOP has never waivered from our position that all employees deserve due process protections. The current FOP Contract contains protections that came from nearly 40 years of “give and take” between the FOP and the city. At times, the city and the police department may have failed to implement certain Contract provisions properly, but that does not mean they “should be scrubbed.”
The protections are not there to “shield bad cops,” but rather to protect all Chicago Police Officers who put their lives on the line every day to protect the citizens of Chicago. Just because they put on the blue uniform does not mean they should give up their right to due process. These basic protections are important for all workers, especially Police Officers, who have to make split second decisions in life and death situations and are often the victims of false accusations from dangerous criminals. Of course, Officers proven to be involved in misconduct need to be held accountable and, if necessary, disciplined. Our Contract allows for this, there just has to be due process.
The Tribune writes that “City Hall has been handcuffed by the police union.” The editorial seems to forget that all fifty members of the City Council in 2014 unanimously approved our Contract. At the time even Mayor Emanuel praised our efforts in reaching a “fair deal.”
Now, as part of a nationwide narrative to vilify law enforcement, some of the politicians, many who have been around for multiple terms, are raising “concerns” over contract provisions that have been approved for decades. Your editorial also fails to mention that not one provision of our Contract was found unconstitutional by the US Department of Justice.
Instead, the Tribune offers several examples of where it claims the Contract protected a small group of Officers guilty of misconduct, but that does not justify getting rid of basic rights and protections that benefit all Police Officers.
It means the implementation of the Contract must be better. On this score the city has failed miserably. Again, look to the DOJ Report. If the Tribune asked, we could have shared that investigations conducted by IPRA (and previously OPS–headed by current Police Board President Lori Lightfoot) that drag on and regularly take years to conclude.
We agree that restoring public trust in the Police Department is essential—but not at the expense of eroding our Contract. Instead, that will come from building stronger relationships with the communities we serve, improvements in training and equipment so we can do our jobs better, support programs for Officers who are struggling with issues like post traumatic stress, and ending nepotism and cronyism that often keeps the best Officers from rising in the ranks. Getting rid of basic rights for Police Officers is not the answer, it just feeds the anti-police rhetoric.