Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown defended the city’s vaccine mandate on Tuesday, saying that COVID-19 is “no different than the gunfire” officers face in the line of duty and that refusing the COVID vaccine goes “against the oath” officers take to protect the public.
Brown made the comments during a press conference Tuesday where he revealed that 21 Chicago police officers are currently on no-pay status for refusing to input their information into the city’s vaccine status portal, a move the superintendent says is a violation of direct orders.
In a sometimes-emotional press conference, Brown says that COVID has touched his life both personally and professionally, and that the virus, which he says has led to the deaths of more police officers than any other cause since the pandemic began, is a health threat equivalent to that of the gunfire that officers face in the line of duty.
“This virus is no different than the gunfire we take as cops,” he said. “I will do everything I can and I will say anything I need to in order to convince officers to do everything they can to save their lives, the lives of their families, the lives of their other officers, and the lives of people we are sworn to protect in this community.”
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According to Brown, 67.69% of officers and civilians in the Chicago Police Department have entered their data into the city’s vaccine portal. Of those employees, 82% are fully vaccinated, while the remaining 18% will now be subjected to twice-weekly COVID testing through the end of the year.
Of the “hundreds” of officers who have been counseled on their failure to comply with the terms of the city’s COVID vaccine mandate, 21 have been placed on unpaid status for refusal to enter their information into the portal.
Brown says he anticipates the process of counselling officers and employees will take several more days, since the employees are being counseled in a one-on-one setting.
Brown says that he is working to convince officers not only to submit their information into the vaccine portal, but also to get the vaccine itself, saying that it is critical to allowing the department to live up to its oath to protect the public.
“It would go against our oath to take this virus into their homes,” he said. “Because we’re not vaccinated, because we’re not tested, we’re going into people’s homes in this community and potentially spreading the virus to people. We’re sworn to protect people.”
Union officials say that the vaccine mandate is a violation of their collective bargaining rights, and have promised legal action to protect officers who are not complying with the terms of the mandate.