Editor’s note: This letter originally appeared on Officer Julius Givens’s Medium page.
Dear President J. Catanzara:
It has been an honor of a lifetime to serve the city as a police officer. Nothing excites me more than going to work and ensuring the welfare of our city and its citizens — most days, I cannot get there fast enough.
Prior to being the Police I was of the opinion that police officers must always be guided by truth, reason, and fairness in accordance to the law. As the Police, I’ve come to learn that the three most important aspects of policing are police effectiveness, police accountability, and public trust. Without this trilogy real measurable progress is limited.
Furthermore, I am proud of some of the progress made over the last year in coordination with the city and the union: better and more frequent real-life training, improved field training officer programs, stress management and counseling for officers, and many other improvements that help us best serve the public. Additionally, and on a broader scale, I’ve known most labor unions of the 21st century to serve the interest of their members and the public. I applaud those organizations and support them. Unions are not obsolete and are needed today to negotiate members wages, health benefits, work conditions, etc., which ensures the well-being of members and their families and retirees after a lifetime commitment in their given profession.
One core belief that I’ve always maintained is Sir Robert Peel’s notion that the citizens are police and the police are citizens and that it is imperative for us to work in conjunction with one another if our goal is to ensure safe and just communities. This means a working relationship with the public, in every neighborhood, is paramount to any and all success. Similarly, I believe the Police must be steadfast and resolute in our support of community partners and organizations that stand for justice, peace, and healthy ideas that move our society forward. For example, those who peacefully protest that the color of their skin should not dictate a death sentence or abuse of power by the police aren’t taking a political stand but are crying out that they too have unalienable rights that should be protected. Moreover, these folks are not our enemies nor are they part of some deep state. Comparatively they seek justice, tranquility, liberty, and prosperity for themselves and their children — all things we are constitutionally bound to uphold.
That is why on June 10, I was disheartened to hear your response to WGN Radio host Bob Sirott’s question, “I’ve seen good cops kneeling, marching, praying, crying. What do you think when you see that among peaceful protesters? Your response: “Any member of Lodge 7 who is going to take a knee and basically side with protesters while they’re in uniform will subject themselves to discipline in the lodge up to and including expulsion from Lodge 7.”
John, I am bewildered that given your position as the leader of one of the most powerful unions in the United States, that you would respond in such a manner. To hear the cry of the people we serve and ignore it is a crime against humanity.
Likewise during your interview with Eric Shawn you blame parents and lack of time spent in jail for the shocking numbers of gun-related violence in our city. And while I agree that our criminal justice needs major improvements, I was dispirited that not one time did you mention decades long policies such as: the war on drugs, redlining, access to quality education and healthcare at all stages of life, and other systematic policies of oppression. To ignore these realities, at a time when children are dying in the streets, is to be indifferent to justice.
While police in our city are not the problem to the painfully high issue of gun violence, I strongly believe that, given our proximity to the public, we can be part of the solution. However, we can not alienate ourselves from the people we serve with a hostile law and order approach to policing. This puts us in a losing position and I came on this job to win, just like the thousands of my colleagues.
Mr. President, I am my mother’s son and that upbringing teaches me that service to mankind is the cornerstone of our life.
My Jesuit education taught me to seek the poor, the suffering, and the oppressed and do all the good I can for them.
Nobel Laureate, Elie Wiesel, reminds me to “never remain silent… Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere.”
My job as a police officer shows me that the public wants and desires a healthy partnership with us.
So it is for these reasons I’ve just listed that I request, effective immediately or the earliest possible date, to terminate my membership, all relations, and communication with the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7. If I require any legal representation with regards to my duties as a police officer I will provide those services independent of Lodge 7 moving forward.
2.7 million people live in our city. They come from around the world and all 50 states. They make up every race and ethnicity on the planet and speak hundreds of languages. If you don’t believe me, just visit the Clark and Lake “L” station during rush hour — it is a beautiful thing to witness. These are the folks we serve and as a consequence all hope is not lost. The greatness of our city lies in its diversity. If Lodge 7 can realign their compass to that of the public we serve and its members I’d be happy to rejoin at a future date.
Julius Givens is a Chicago police officer currently serving in the 1st District. His opinions are his own and are not associated with his department or any other officer in the department.