In a victory for Chicago's Fraternal Order of Police, a Cook County judge Monday evening declined to extend a restraining order prohibiting FOP President John Catanzara from encouraging his members to defy the city's COVID vaccine mandate.
Judge Cecilia Horan granted the city's request for a temporary restraining order against Catanzara Oct. 15, saying the threat of a work stoppage "constituted a clear and present danger to the health, safety and welfare of the public."
City attorneys hoped to extend the order to include other union leaders in addition to Catanzara, accusing him of continuing to speak out or having other union officials do so in his place.
“Mr. Catanzara continues to make statements that if not cross the line, come right up to over and certainly his toes are crossing the line,” Mike Warner, an attorney for the city, said. “These statements are adding gasoline to the fire. They are urging his members to engage in an unlawful act.”
The city of Chicago has set a Dec. 31 for its employees to be fully vaccinated, and those who don't comply could be at risk of losing their jobs. While 79% percent of city employees confirmed their vaccination status ahead of the Oct. 15 reporting deadline, more than one-third of CPD officers had yet to provide their vaccination status.
In a three-page ruling denying the restraining order extension, Horan explained evidence suggests "the situation has materially changed" since Oct. 15.
"The deadline for compliance with the City’s vaccination policy has expired," she stated. "The threatened work stoppage has not come to pass. The City has not presented evidence that it has extended the deadline for compliance or implemented the threatened penalties for violating its policy against the vast majority of violators."
Chicago police leaders, who call the vaccine mandate a matter of protecting officers and the public, have said less than two dozen officers haven’t complied with the order to the point of risking their employment. The city’s order allows for a temporary window of regular COVID-19 testing at the employee’s own expense until vaccines can be administered.
Police Superintendent David Brown said Monday that 23 department employees were placed on “no-pay status” for failing to comply with the order.
“We want to stay focused on protecting the people of Chicago. That includes the police officers of this department,” he said. “So we really see this as a life-saving effort for police officers...Part of that means following through on the vaccine mandate.”