The head of the Chicago police union has urged its members to defy the city’s vaccine mandate, which requires they report their vaccination status by Friday or be placed on unpaid leave.
Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara promised to take Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and her administration to court if she attempts to enforce the mandate. The vaccine mandate requires city workers, including police officers, to report their vaccination status by the end of the workweek or lose their pay.
Unvaccinated workers who refuse to submit to semi-weekly testing will also be placed on unpaid leave.
In a video statement, Catanzara said if the city chooses to enforce the mandate, and many police union members refuse to comply, “It’s safe to say the city of Chicago will have a police force at 50 percent or less for this weekend coming up.”
Catanzara instructed officers to file for exemptions for receiving the vaccine, but not to enter that information into the website set up by the city to collect that information.
“I do not believe the city has the authority to mandate that to anybody, let alone that information about your medical history,” said Catanzara, who has made clear his own vaccine status.
Despite making clear what his status is, he says that everyone else has the right to choose on their own who receives their medical information.
Mayor Lightfoot fired back at a news conference on Wednesday, where she accused Catanzara of spreading misinformation and dismissed his statements as “untrue or patently false.” The Mayor insisted that the vaccines are proven to be effective and that getting shot would protect city workers and their families.
“What we’re focused on is making sure that we maximize the opportunity to create a very safe workplace,” Lightfoot said. “The data is very clear. It is unfortunate that the FOP leadership has chosen to put out a counter narrative. But the fact of the matter is, if you are not vaccinated, you are playing with your life, the life of your family, the life of your colleagues and members of the public.”
Lightfoot said that Chicago is prepared to deal with any fallout related to the vaccination requirement. Her remarks come as violent crime continues to skyrocket, from shootings on the expressway, gang violence, and a rise in car jackings.
To date, Chicago police have reported 629 homicides from the start of the year to early October, compared with 605 last year, and 402 in 2019 in the same time frame.
It is unclear how the city plans to cope without half their police force, should Catanzara’s threat prove true. Perhaps social workers will be up to the task.