Time to flee the city? Lawsuits fly as Chicago FOP says half of police force could be fired over mandate


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CHICAGO, IL – Things are heating up in the “Windy City” as the Mayor warns that police officers and other city workers who defy the city’s vaccine mandate will be put on no-pay status — and could be fired if they don’t show up for work.

Chicago Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) President John Catanzara said Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot gave the Chicago Police Department’s (CPD) 12,000 officers until midnight on Oct. 14 to disclose their vaccine status. Catanzara is telling officers that the city has no authority to mandate the shots:

“I’ve made my status very clear as far as the vaccine, but I do not believe the city has the authority to mandate that to anybody, let alone that information about your medical history and change the terms of employment so to speak on the fly.”

Catanzara has warned Chicago could be forced to get by this weekend with a police force of “50% or less” if the mayor follows through on her threat to place employees who fail to report their vaccination status by Friday on “non-disciplinary, no-pay status.”

Mayor Lightfoot said the city would take the weekend to review which officers complied with the order before taking action. She said she did not expect to place any officers on unpaid leave until next week and said officers should continue reporting for duty unless told otherwise:

“No employee should abandon their post. Not showing up creates a whole other set of issues for them.”

The Mayor would not answer what the city planned to do if half the officers were taken off the streets, instead holding on to hopes that officers would comply:

“I don’t expect that to happen. And again, I’m gonna (sic) be focused on the positive, which is, the whole point that all of our city employees — whether they are sworn or civilian — do their duty and make sure they get vaccinated.

“I believe that, as a city government, we’ve got to lead by example. … The only way that we can make this real is we’ve got to hold people accountable. And we are absolutely prepared to do that.”

After throwing a barb at the Union boss, she said told officers to protect their families and the community:

“John Catanzara says a lot of things. A lot of it offensive and racist and foolish. But we’ll see what happens. We’ll be prepared for any eventuality.”

“Our message is to the members: Protect yourself. Protect your family. Protect your partner. Protect members of the public. Get yourself vaccinated. We don’t want to lose any more police officers from COVID-19 deaths when the life-saving vaccine is readily available.”

Opting not to respond to the personal attack by the Mayor, Catanzara said a large number of officers find the vaccine requirement and the survey that must be submitted are “overreach”:

“If we suspect the numbers are true and we get a large number of our members to stand firm on their beliefs that this is an overreach and they’re not going to supply the information in the portal or submit to testing, then it’s safe to say the city of Chicago will have a police force at 50 percent or less for this weekend coming up.

“That is not because of the FOP; that is 100 percent because of the mayor’s unwillingness to budge from her hard line.”

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According to Lightfoot, the survey required of officers is “very basic” and “not intrusive.”

The city took the extraordinary step of asking a judge to silence the Union, and the judge surprisingly agreed.

A restraining order came Friday evening, just a day after the city sued the police union and its president, John Catanzara, alleging they were “encouraging a work stoppage or strike” by suggesting offices not report their COVID-19 vaccination status as required.

Mayor Lightfoot said in a Friday press release:

“As Chicago’s mayor, I cannot and will not stand idly by while the rhetoric of conspiracy theorists threatens the health and safety of Chicago’s residents and first responders.

“President Catanzara has time and again deliberately misled our police officers by lying about the requirements of the policy and falsely claiming that there will be no repercussions if officers are insubordinate and refuse to follow a City and Department directive or order.”

“… By doing so, and by predicting that 50 percent or more officers will violate their oaths and not report for duty, Catanzara is encouraging an unlawful strike and work stoppage which carries the potential to undermine public safety and expose our residents to irreparable harm, particularly during an ongoing pandemic.”

The Union reacted by filing its own lawsuit against the city, claiming officials did not negotiate over the mandate in good faith and sending out the mandate without discussing the terms with the Union. Catanzara told reporters:

“Our stance from the beginning is that we’re a union there are collective bargaining rights that need to be maintained and honored.”

Catanzara and Lightfoot have sparred on many occasions, and reports claim the two do not like each other on a personal level. The vaccine mandate has been burning between them since the Mayor made the mandate announcement in August, and at times, things got overheated between the two.

Shortly after the mandate was announced, Catanzara compared it to tactics used by Nazi Germany.

“We’re in America, Godd–n it. We don’t want to be forced to do anything. Period. This ain’t Nazi f—ing Germany, (where they say), ‘Step into the f—ing showers. The pills won’t hurt you.’ What the f—k?”

He apologized for the comments after blowback from the Anti-Defamation League and other groups.

The Union boss released another video on Thursday calling on officers to reject the mandate. Catanzara said he does not think the city should be able to require workers to get vaccinated, nor does he think officers should trust the city with their private health information.


The Mayor has backed off on employment threats in the past, but this battle seems to be coming to a head. She said officers who do not want to comply can leave the department:

“It’s an honor to be a Chicago police officer. And anyone who says, ‘We get to do what we want, when we want it. We get to have the kind of policing that we want when we want it,’ that is the kind of policing that has happened in our city for far too long,” and it’s why residents don’t trust police.

“We’re not having that anymore. It is a new day in the city of Chicago.”

After Friday, all city workers who are not fully vaccinated must agree to twice-weekly testing through Dec. 31, at which point they are required to be fully vaccinated, or they can face discipline.

Catanzara has directed rank-and-file police officers to file forms “no earlier than Thursday” exempting them from receiving the vaccine for one of three reasons the union has insisted upon: religious, medical, or conscientious objector.

He directed them to report to work, as scheduled, on Friday and force the city to send them home.

In a video posted on the union’s Facebook page, Catanzara told officers their insurance benefits will continue for 30 days, even if they are placed on “non-disciplinary” suspension without pay.

“I can guarantee you that no-pay status will not last more than 30 days. There’s no way they’re going to be able to sustain a police department workforce at 50% capacity or less for more than seven days without something budging.”

In an interview Friday night on Fox News, Catanzara summed up how he sees the battle:

“The numbers we have are probably around half are not [vaccinated]. But even the ones that are, like myself, believe that a forced mandate is absolutely wrong.

“The reality is, we have a profession nobody else wants to do right now. They cannot get anybody to go into this police academy, but yet here she is vilifying the police yet again in a city that has over 185 expressway shootings this year alone.

“Over 280 kids shot this year alone, and she acts like there’s nothing else going on but this COVID.”

Chicago is not alone in the battle between privacy rights, medical rights, and vaccine mandates. Cities across the country are struggling with this same issue.

At least 120 officers in San Francisco have been removed from duty for failing to comply with the city’s vaccine mandate. Eighty of the 120 police officers removed from work were from the department’s patrol division, San Francisco Police Officers Association vice president Tracy McCray said.

Law Enforcement Today will be following these battles and reporting on them in the days to come.




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