Police Union, Johnson Reach Deal to 2-Year Contract Extension with Bigger Raises, Bonuses for Cops

(WTTW News)(WTTW News)

Mayor Brandon Johnson announced Friday that negotiators had reached a deal to extend the contract for Chicago’s more than 10,000 police officers for an additional two years with an agreement that includes bigger than expected raises and bonuses, as well as changes city officials said will reduce murders and crime on public transit.

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The deal, which must be approved by the Chicago City Council, resolves the issues left over from the contract agreement reached by former Mayor Lori Lightfoot in July 2021 that ended the longest union negotiations in the city’s history.

That eight-year contract, which was retroactive to 2017 and is set to expire in 2025, called for officers to get approximately 19% in raises during the life of the agreement and imposed new rules on officers suspected of misconduct.

In a statement released late Friday, Johnson called the tentative deal, which would expire June 30, 2027, “fair and in alignment with Chicago’s current policing needs, economic landscape and budgetary capabilities.” It is the first labor agreement reached by Johnson, who took office in May.

The mayor’s office said the contract would take “a critical step towards improving the homicide clearance rate” by creating dedicated teams to investigate each killing. Modeled on a program in Los Angeles, teams would get five weeks to solve murders before being assigned to other cases, sources said.

In addition, the deal would give department leaders more flexibility on who they assign to patrol CTA buses and trains. The current contract reserves the vast majority of those spots for veteran officers.

“We took a lot of slings and arrows over the last couple years,” Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara said in a video posted on the union’s social media accounts.

“But we never took our eye off the prize about getting the best possible result at the end of this process, and that’s where we’re at now.”

Catanzara endorsed former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas in the race for mayor and warned that between 800 and 1,000 officers would leave Chicago if Johnson was elected, ensuring “blood in the streets.” 

However, the number of sworn officers has remained steady since Johnson took office, and he and Catanzara have hammered out a much warmer working relationship than many expected. The two agreed in June to work together to craft a measure designed to codify the annual cost-of-living increase added to payments made to retired police officers, and Catanzara praised Johnson for picking Chicago Police Supt. Larry Snelling to lead the department. 

In his video message to officers, Catanzara made a point of thanking Johnson.

The new agreement calls for officers to get raises of at least 16% over the life of the agreement, including 5% raises in 2024 and 2025, Catanzara said. The current contract calls for officers to get raises of 2.5% in 2024 and 2025.

In 2026 and 2027, officers’ raises would be tied to inflation, with officers getting raises of at least 3% and no more than 5%, Catanzara said. 

In addition, all officers would get a one-time bonus of $2,500 under the proposed contract. The current contract calls for officers with at least 20 years on the force to get a $2,000-per-year retention bonus. The deal also allows officers to take at least 12 weeks of parental leave by using the current contract’s medical leave benefits, Catanzara said.

Perhaps the most contentious provision in the deal would allow officers to choose to have an arbitrator determine the outcome of cases where department leaders seek to terminate an officer or suspend them for more than one year, instead of by the Chicago Police Board, upending the system used to punish officers for 60 years.  

It is unclear whether a majority of City Council members would vote for a deal that includes that provision at a time when the city has been ordered by a federal judge to change the way it trains, supervises and disciplines officers. The city has fully complied with just 5% of the requirements detailed in the agreement that is nearly five years old. 

For decades, scandals, misconduct and brutality have engulfed the Chicago Police Department. 

The arbitrator in charge of resolving the issues that could not be settled as part of the 2021 police contract ruled Chicago officers had the right to have their cases decided by an arbitrator, despite outrage from police reform advocates and concerns it would limit transparency and make it impossible to hold officers accountable.

“The city remains deeply disappointed in the arbitrator’s decision to claw back transparency in the police disciplinary process,” according to a statement from the mayor’s office.

“My administration remains committed to moving forward with any avenue available to keep the police disciplinary process transparent and utilizing the full force of government comprehensive community safety agenda that will bring community leaders, businesses, philanthropic partners, faith leaders and youth leaders together,” Johnson said.

However, Catanzara said the right of an officer facing serious determination to have their fate decided by an independent arbitrator is no different from any other city employee’s right to contest punishment.

“But this is standard labor practice, and I hope the City Council members can appreciate,” Catanzara said. “If you are the party of labor, you should be respectful of that provision, even if you are not 100% in agreement with it.” 

Police Board President Ghian Foreman, whose term is about to expire, urged the City Council to reject that provision during the annual examination of the board’s budget, calling it a “mistake.” 

“I don’t think it advances our city,” Foreman said. 

A Chicago Police officer struck Foreman five times on his legs with a baton during a protest that erupted after the police murder of George Floyd in 2020. After that officer objected to the discipline, an arbitrator determined he should be suspended for 90 days after a series of closed-door hearings.

Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]

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