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Chicago begins putting officers on no-pay status for failing to report COVID-19 vaccine status

Mayor Lori Lightfoot. (Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

A “very small number” of Chicago police officers have been placed on no-pay status for refusing to comply with the city’s requirement that they report their vaccine status, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Monday afternoon.

Lightfoot made the comment at a news conference where she highlighted the relatively high compliance with the city’s vaccine mandate across most other city governmental departments.

Less than 65% of Chicago cops have met the city’s vaccination reporting requirement, days after Friday’s deadline for city workers to disclose their status.

About 72% of Chicago firefighters have met the requirement set by Lightfoot as a condition of city workers’ employment.

Chicago’s data is a good news-bad news scenario for Lightfoot, who has been in a standoff with some labor leaders: The vast majority of city departments are at near 100% compliance after the mayor’s deadline came and went Friday night.

But response rates remain comparably low for police and firefighters, an unsurprising development given the widespread opposition campaign mounted by Fraternal Order of Police local President John Catanzara before a judge ordered him to stop speaking publicly against the campaign.

Aside from police and fire, the next lowest response rate is for Family and Support Services, at 83%, though it’s artificially low because it technically counts non-city employees who work with the department. No other departments are under 90% compliance.

On Sunday, Chicago Police brass issued a memo that threatens those who do not comply with Lightfoot’s COVID-19 vaccination policy with a disciplinary investigation that could result in the termination of officers who refuse to get the vaccine — but the agency’s largest police union, the Fraternal Order of Police, in its own memo to officers maintains the order is “invalid.”

The police memo, sent Sunday night by a member of Superintendent David Brown’s office staff, also threatens officers who might choose to retire rather than get the vaccine. It says: “sworn members who retire while under disciplinary investigations may be denied retirement credentials.”

The FOP, in response, sent a document to its members that provides language officers can use should they be asked to go to Internal Affairs and given a direct order to report their vaccination status through the city portal, according to multiple law enforcement sources.

“Complying with this INVALID order and the violation of MY Bargaining, Constitutional and Civil Rights has furthermore caused me severe anxiety while challenging both my religious and moral beliefs. I am in fact complying with this because I am being forced to do so under complete duress and threats of termination,” the document reads.

The union told members who receive a direct order from a supervisor to have that supervisor add their name to the FOP-provided document and advised members to keep a copy for themselves and send another to the union. According to a law enforcement source, the union also is urging members to turn on their body cameras and record the encounters, a call Catanzara has made before.

The memo comes after a judge’s ruling Friday night that created a temporary restraining order against Catanzara, prohibiting him from making public statements that encourage members not to report their COVID-19 vaccine status to the city.

The restraining order is in place until Oct. 25, when another court session is scheduled. Both sides have filed dueling lawsuits and accuse each other of illegally risking the safety of the city over the issue.

Lightfoot announced in August that each of the city’s more than 30,000 workers must be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus by Oct. 15, following numerous cities across the U.S. As the deadline approached, Lightfoot pressured city workers with unspecified “consequences” if they did not meet the vaccination cutoff.

After the back-and-forth with the police union, Lightfoot agreed Oct. 8 to allow city workers to remain unvaccinated until the end of the year — if they submit to twice-weekly testing at their own expense.

But Lightfoot then drew a line in the sand, saying all city workers must fill out the city portal form reporting their status, regardless of whether they’re vaccinated, or be placed on a no-pay status.

Catanzara previously posted a video urging about 10,000 active officers to defy Lightfoot’s vaccination reporting requirement and prepare to be sent home without pay.


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