John Catanzara

Chicago Police Union, Lightfoot Still at Odds Over Vaccine Mandate as Deadline Nears

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City employees in Chicago have three more days to declare their COVID vaccination status, and the president of the Fraternal Order of Police says the lodge will support officers who do not adhere to the mandate.

In an online message posted Tuesday, FOP President John Catanzara says that the union plans to file a legal challenge to the city’s mask mandate, which requires employees to either be vaccinated against COVID, or to submit to twice-weekly COVID testing at their own expense.

Employees will be required to submit their vaccination status to the city’s online portal within the next three days.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot says that even in the face of a potential legal challenge, Friday’s deadline to get the vaccine still holds for all city workers.

“There will be consequences if people are not complying with what the policy is by Oct. 15,” she said.

Those consequences include not being paid to work, a move Catanzara says will lead to officers not showing up for work.

“Whatever happens because of that manpower issue, that falls at the mayor’s doorstep,” he said. “It’s safe to say the city of Chicago will have a police force at 50% or less for this weekend.”

Even as police push back against the vaccine mandate, many legal experts say they face an uphill battle in that fight.

“Legally do I think they’re going to prevail? Probably not,” attorney Tom Glascow said.

Illinois courts have said governments can issue vaccine mandates in previous decisions, and Glascow says he doesn’t think that a narrowly-written exemption for some healthcare workers, which some have said police officers may try to use, will work.

“I don’t think police officers are going to be defined as healthcare workers,” he said. “Do I think they’re being discriminated against? No, I don’t.”

For now, the police union and mayor remain at odds, hoping the other side blinks or that courts rule on a different way for things to proceed.

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