CHICAGO (WBBM) – Gery Chico Wednesday picked up the backing of the Fraternal Order of Police, which made its first endorsement in a Chicago mayor’s race in 20 years.

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The union represents more than 11,000 Chicago police officers. Chico simultaneously gained the endorsement of the Chicago Sergeants’ Association, which represents police sergeants.

The vote by Union President Mark Donahue and his board was unanimous, even though rank-and-file officers polled by the union split almost evenly between Chico and Rahm Emanuel.

“Gery understands what Chicago needs,” said Donahue.

Chico emphasized a “let’s get along” attitude when accepting the endorsement, promising to hire more police officers, work out a pension dispute, show more flexibility at the bargaining table and establish an ongoing dialogue.

“We will not have a situation develop again where the mayor is out of communication with some of the most important employees the city has,” he said. “That is my pledge to you today.”

Chico calls the endorsement the most important of the campaign — even bigger than former President Bill Clinton’s endorsement of Emanuel.

“Number one, Bill Clinton doesn’t vote here,” he said. “Number two, Bill Clinton does not patrol the streets of Chicago. And number three, Bill Clinton doesn’t live here.”

Emanuel indicated to reporters last week that employee contributions and retirement age should be a part of discussions with unionized city workers.