Mayor Brandon Johnson asked the Chicago City Council late Monday to reject a key part of the agreement he brokered with the city’s largest police union that would upend the system used to punish officers for 60 years.
The arbitrator in charge of resolving the issues that could not be settled as part of the 2021 police contract ruled Chicago officers facing a suspension of at least a year or termination had the right to have their cases decided by an arbitrator behind closed doors rather than in public by the Chicago Police Board.
Johnson said in a statement late Monday that the arbitrator reaffirmed that decision, first reached months ago, despite the city’s vehement opposition and called it “a major setback for police accountability and reform.”
“While we recognize police officers’ right to arbitration, it is crucial that disciplinary cases be handled in a manner that allows for public transparency and true accountability,” Johnson said. “Since this is a matter that will require City Council action, I am asking the body to reject this measure when it comes up in the coming weeks.”
The Chicago City Council has the power to either accept or reject the first labor agreement reached by Johnson, who took office in May, but cannot make changes to its terms. A vote to reject even part of the deal could send both the city and the police union back to the bargaining table.
In a message posted on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, Jason Lee, Johnson's senior adviser, said the mayor would ask “the council to reject the arbitrator's ruling which is separate and apart from any proposed agreement."
Less than 72 hours ago, Johnson hailed the agreement with the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 7, as “fair and in alignment with Chicago’s current policing needs, economic landscape and budgetary capabilities,” while noting that he was “deeply disappointed in the arbitrator’s decision to claw back transparency in the police disciplinary process.”
It was unclear late Monday why Johnson would ask the City Council to reject part of a deal that he acknowledged contained this provision that he opposed and had been blasted by police reform advocates who contend it would limit transparency and make it impossible to hold officers accountable.
The mayor’s office declined to answer questions about the deal late Monday night.
Even before Johnson’s statement urging the City Council to reject the deal, it was unclear whether a majority of City Council members would vote for a deal that would allow serious misconduct cases to be decided behind closed doors 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 police union’s current 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.
The proposed agreement calls for officers to get raises of at least 16% over the life of the agreement, including 5% raises in 2024 and 2025, officials 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%, officials said. In addition, all officers would get a one-time bonus of $2,500 under the proposed contract, officials said.
The current contract calls for officers with at least 20 years on the force to get a $2,000-per-year retention bonus.
Police union president John Catanzara did not respond to a request for comment from WTTW News late Monday about Johnson’s statement urging the City Council to reject the deal. In a video to his members Friday, Catanzara said it was the right of any officer facing serious punishment to have their fate decided by an independent arbitrator, just like any other city employee.
“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.”