The Chicago Police Union chief called on his members to challenge the city’s requirement to report their COVID-19 vaccination status by Friday or be put on unpaid leave, predicting a shortage of officers then that the mandate comes into effect this weekend.
In a two-hour meeting with more than 200 members in attendance on Wednesday evening, Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara said Lodge 7 was ready to fight.
“Hell no is the best way to put it, across the board,” he told members.
Her comments echo those made in a video posted online Tuesday, where Catanzara has vowed to sue Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration if she tries to enforce the vaccination mandate, which requires city workers to report their status. vaccination by the end of the work week. After Friday, unvaccinated workers who fail to submit to bi-weekly coronavirus tests will be placed on unpaid leave.
Catanzara suggested that if the city enforces its requirement and many union members refuse to comply, “it is safe to say that the city of Chicago will have a police force of 50% or less for this weekend. future.”
In the video, Catanzara asks officers to request exemptions to receive the vaccine but not to enter that information into the city’s vaccine portal.
He said that although he made his immunization status clear, “I don’t think the city has the power to mandate anyone, let alone this information about your medical history.”
At a press conference on Wednesday, Lightfoot accused Catanzara of spreading false information and dismissed most of his statements as “false or manifestly false”. She said COVID-19 vaccines have been shown to be effective and getting the vaccine would protect city workers and their families.
“What we are focused on is making sure that we maximize the opportunity to create a very safe workplace,” said Lightfoot. “The data is very clear. It is unfortunate that the FOP leadership has chosen to publish a counter-narrative. But the point is, if you are not vaccinated, you are playing with your life, the lives of your family, the lives of your coworkers and members of the public.
She said the city was prepared to deal with any fallout related to the vaccination requirement, but added that she did not expect a shortage of first responders.
“I don’t expect that to happen,” she said. “And again, I’m going to focus on the positive, which is that all employees in our city, whether sworn or civilian, do their duty and make sure they do. vaccinate. ”
Violent crime has increased in the city this year, from highway shootings to an increase in car hijackings. Chicago police reported 629 homicides this year through early October, up from 605 during the same period last year and 402 during the same period in 2019.
First responders across the country have been hit hard by the virus but have resisted vaccination mandates. More than 460 law enforcement officers have died from COVID-19, including four members of the Chicago Police Department, according to Officer Down Memorial Page. Dean Angelo, who once served as Catanzara’s union post, died of the disease on Tuesday.
The Los Angeles Police and County Sheriff, and Seattle Police are among the departments that have or face vaccination warrants.
Catanzara clashed with the mayor over a host of issues. After the city announced the vaccine’s mandate in August, the union leader compared it to something that could happen to Nazi Germany, telling the Sun-Times: “It’s not Nazi Germany ( saying) “Get in the … showers, the pills won’t hurt you. ‘”
Lightfoot lambasted Catanzara for his “offensive outburst” and Catanzara posted a video on the union’s YouTube channel apologizing for his choice of words, saying he was not trying to link the vaccinations to what happened during the Holocaust.
City of Chicago employees who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by October 15 must participate in twice-weekly testing, but the testing option will not be available in the long term.
The city said it would allow twice-weekly testing for unvaccinated employees until December 31. Unvaccinated employees should be tested twice a week, with testing being separated by 3 to 4 days. Employees must obtain the tests themselves and at their own expense, and then report the results to the city.
Even as police push back the vaccine’s mandate, many legal experts say they face an uphill battle in this fight.
“Legally, do I think they’re going to win? Probably not, ”said lawyer Tom Glasgow.
Illinois courts have said governments can issue vaccination warrants in past rulings, and Glasgow has said it does not believe a strictly written exemption for certain healthcare workers, which some have said the police could try to use, would work.
“I don’t think the police will be defined as healthcare workers,” he said. “Do I think they are discriminated against? No, I don’t.
The subject is expected to be discussed at the city council meeting on Wednesday.