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New Police Union Head Will Push To 'Get Some Help From The Feds,' He Says

By Alex Nitkin | May 17, 2017 6:12am | Updated on May 19, 2017 11:32am
 Fraternal Order of Police president Kevin Graham speaks to a meeting of the Northwest Side GOP Club, as club president Matt Podgorski listens.
Fraternal Order of Police president Kevin Graham speaks to a meeting of the Northwest Side GOP Club, as club president Matt Podgorski listens.
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DNAinfo/Alex Nitkin

JEFFERSON PARK — The new president of the union representing rank-and-file Chicago Police officers thinks "the city is going to be very surprised at some of the things I'm going to be bringing up" during upcoming contract negotiations, he told a local political group Tuesday.

"To tell you the truth, I have some ideas where ... maybe we can get some help from the feds," Kevin Graham told a meeting of the Northwest Side GOP Club at their new headquarters, 6124 N. Milwaukee Ave.

"I heard there happens to be a friendly guy in Washington right now," he added, laughing. "So I've got some ideas, and I want to see how it plays out."

Graham defeated former Fraternal Order of Police president Dean Angelo in an April 12 election, scoring votes from 56 percent of officers with a platform to fight "the anti-police movement in the city" by drawing a harder line against city leaders and media.

The union is getting ready to negotiate a new employee contract for the city's 12,000-plus officers; the current contract set to expire in June.

Graham previewed a long list of priorities during his half-hour talk Tuesday, including more staffing and stronger mental health services for officers. He also called for tight restrictions on how body camera footage can be used, saying he was "skeptical" of the hardware soon to be outfitted to every officer in the city.

"Footage you get from those cameras can be very one-dimensional," Graham said. "When you make one mistake on camera, how much do you think the city is going to release all the good things you do, too?"

Officers should be able to download any footage recorded on their own cameras so that they can "balance out" negative media coverage of incidents, "because the news only wants that five seconds that aren't in favor of the officer," he said.

Those kinds of incidents can be avoided by beefing up manpower in areas of the city that need it, Graham said, including in the Jefferson Park District, which is served by the fewest officers per capita of any district in the city.

"Media outlets should really be focusing more on the manpower in each district, because when you're [patrolling] all by yourself, a simple situation can get bigger," he said. "If a crowd knows that you're by yourself, you can end up using more force than you'd like to use, and that's where you get into problems."

During Graham's tenure, the Police Department is set to grow by 970 positions: 516 police officers, 200 detectives, 112 sergeants, 50 lieutenants and 92 field training officers.

When an audience member on Tuesday asked Graham how he'd diverge from Angelo's leadership style, the new president vowed to be "more vocal" and "willing to listen to people" than his predecessor.

"I'm not willing to listen to people who bash police without justification, but I'm trying to get out there and talk to everyone, including in neighborhoods where people don't look like me," Graham said. "We want people to know that we're not just working for police — we're working for better communities as well."