Update: A judge in Chicago has blocked the city from enforcing its vaccine mandate for police officers. Cook County Judge Raymond Mitchell suspended the city's Dec. 31 deadline and said the dispute over vaccinations between the city and the police union should be treated as a labor grievance and sent to an arbitrator, reports NBC Chicago. But it was only a partial victory for the Fraternal Order of Police, WLS notes. The judge left in place an order for unvaccinated officers to be tested for COVID twice a week, and officers who refuse to disclose their vaccination status can still be placed on unpaid leave. Our original story from Oct. 13 follows:
The head of Chicago's police union says members should defy the city's COVID vaccine requirements—and he predicts that the force will be at "50% or less" by the weekend. In a video posted on YouTube, Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara urged officers not to comply with an order to report their vaccination status by Friday, the Chicago Tribune reports. After Friday, unvaccinated city workers will have to either submit to semiweekly COVID testing or be placed on unpaid leave. Catanzara said officers should cite "conscientious objection" to the vaccine mandate and go to work Friday with the expectation that they will be sent home.
"I do not believe the city has the authority to mandate that to anybody, let alone that information about your medical history," Catanzara said of the COVID vaccine mandate, adding that the union has filed a grievance against the city and plans to fight the mandate in court. Asked about his remarks Wednesday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said, "He’s threatening litigation. I say, bring it." She accused him of making "untrue or patently false" statements, the AP reports. "You know, John Catanzara says a lot of things, and a lot of it offensive and racist and foolish, but we'll see what happens," the mayor said. "We'll be prepared for any eventuality."
"What we’re focused on is making sure that we maximize the opportunity to create a very safe workplace," and it is "unfortunate that the FOP leadership has chosen to put out a counter narrative," Lightfoot said. Catanzara predicted that the unpaid leave policy would be reversed within a week if enough officers reject the reporting requirement. The AP notes that according to the Officer Down memorial page, the pandemic has killed at least 460 police officers nationwide, including four in Chicago. Dean Angelo, the Chicago police union's president from 2013 to 2017, died from COVID on Tuesday, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. (Read more Chicago stories.)