By National Association of Black Law Enforcement Officers, Inc.,
As a body of men and women of color employed as criminal justice practitioners, the members and Board of Directors of the National Association of Black Law Enforcement Officers have, since their inception, consistently taken an active stance against police brutality, racially discriminatory practices in law enforcement, and other instances of social injustice that bring both division and discredit to our chosen profession.
It is with this in mind that we lend our support to the efforts of Officer Carmella Means of the Chicago, IL Police Department to kneel in taking a stand against racism, injustice and police brutality; Officer Abigail Antunez of the Chicago, IL Police Department to kneel with peaceful protestors; as well as any other police officers who take similar actions, as we, too, find the statements attributed to F.O.P. President John Catanzara to be both improper and insensitive, as well as bordering on the intentional intimidation of those he was elected to serve.
First and foremost, there must be an acceptance of the fact that, by its very nature and organizational structure, Lodge # 7 appears to have neither the intent or desire to properly, adequately, and purposefully support the issues and concerns of the nearly 2,800 African American members of the Chicago Police Department who are currently paying members of the union. This is, however, the typical stance of the vast majority of police unions across the country whose members and leadership do not reflect the presence of these valued members of their agencies.
The comments of the union’s leadership, in the person of President Catanzara, must ultimately lead one to believe that the union itself may have a foundational bias against those members of the community they are sworn to protect and serve, thus indicating that there is a significant void in the manner in which the union and its leadership view the community. When even the membership of the International Association of Chiefs of Police has publicly apologized “for the actions of the past and the role that our profession has played in society’s historical mistreatment of communities of color.”
President Catanzara should recognize that the countless complaints across the country, as well as within the City of Chicago, of racial profiling, police abuse and misconduct, make it essential that community members, as well as his membership, be provided with a better understanding of the direct alignment with what law enforcement should stand for – the protection of people, their human rights, their dignity, safety and rights as an American citizen.
President Catanzara must also accept and recognize one very simple matter of established law – ALL persons, to include law enforcement personnel, who decide to “take a knee” in support of the community protests against what must only be considered as blatant police brutality and excessive use of force, do so under the constitutional protection of their First Amendment Rights. This seems to be a point of fact that has escaped President Catanzara. He must also accept and recognize that the union will still be legally and contractually REQUIRED to provide Officers Means, Antunez and other officers with all negotiated benefits except for legal representation.
We further suggest to President Catanzara that he hold more closely to the spirit of the Constitution and Bylaws of Lodge # 7, wherein it states the following as a part of its mission: “to cultivate a spirit of fraternalism and mutual helpfulness among our members and the people we serve; to increase the efficiency of law enforcement and thus more firmly establish the confidence of the public in the service dedicated to the protection of life and property.” His current comments do not appear to emphasize the tenets of his sworn constituency.
African American law enforcement officers have served this nation honorably for nearly two centuries and have played a significantly pivotal role in the scheme of police-community relations, even while their services, impact and accomplishments have been largely ignored by White researchers, commentators, and their professional counterparts. These officers, just as their counterparts, have given their life’s blood in the protection of this nation and their sacrifices have been no less. And yes, the names of numerous African American law enforcement officers have also been enshrined and memorialized on the National Law Enforcement Officers’ Memorial in our nations’ capital.
When the institutions and leadership that are sworn to protect us choose to act and speak in discriminatory, racially divisive, and intentionally intimidating tones, it does nothing less than perpetuate the narrative that police are racists, with no regard, acknowledgement, respect or understanding of the issues and concerns of both the communities of color that they are paid to serve, and those officers of color whose honorable history of service extends for nearly two centuries, having played a significantly pivotal role in the scheme of police-community relations, even while their services, impact and accomplishments have been largely ignored by their professional counterparts.
The Board of Directors and General Membership of the National Association of Black Law Enforcement Officers, Inc. gives its full, complete and wholehearted support to Chicago Police Officer Carmella Means and Chicago Police Officer Abigail Antunez, as it supports not only the many men and women of color serving within the ranks of the Chicago Police Department, but the community-at-large who are deserving of a much higher quality of service than the leadership of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge # 7 appear willing or qualified to provide.
The National Association of Black Law Enforcement Officers, Inc., a 501(c)(3) non-profit, is a premier national organization representing the interests and concerns of nearly 9,000 African American, Latino and other criminal justice practitioners of color serving in law enforcement, corrections, and investigative agencies throughout the United States, and the communities in which they serve.