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Chicago police officers join other city workers and their supporters Oct. 25, 2021, to protest the mayor's citywide employee vaccination policy.

Chicago police officers join other city workers and their supporters Oct. 25, 2021, to protest the mayor’s citywide employee vaccination policy. (Scott Olson / Getty Images)

 By Abby Liebing  November 1, 2021 at 4:19pm

With vaccine mandates coming into effect all over the country, there has been pushback from both the private and public sector. The nation’s largest cities are beginning to mandate the COVID vaccine, requiring workers to either be vaccinated or submit to testing (for which they would have to pay).

One of the largest voices against these mandates, however, has come from different police departments. Even at the risk of being fired, many police department employees are refusing to be vaccinated or submit to testing. The latest controversy has been between Chicago and its police force.

But a Cook County judge ruled in favor of the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police Monday, granting a temporary restraining order to block the mandate for union members, WLS-TV said.

This comes after more than 4,500 of the police force (both officers and civilian employees) have defied Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s vaccine order.

The mandate required that all employees report their vaccine status by Oct. 15 and to be fully vaccinated by Dec. 31. Lightfoot was clear that city workers who do not follow this mandate could face “non-disciplinary, no-pay status.”

“But once we understand that people have not complied with the simple request — say yes or no, or that I’m going to take the testing option — then, yes, we will be moving forward, putting people [on] notice,” she said, according to WBEZ-TV.

The Fraternal Order of Police then filed a lawsuit against the city.

Cook County Judge Raymond Mitchell said in Monday’s ruling that the city can still put officers on a no-pay status for not reporting their vaccination status, but that police employees cannot be fired for not meeting the Dec. 31 deadline, since the FOP’s grievances need to be heard by an arbitrator.

However, the FOP is not the only powerful force that has opposed Chicago’s mandate. After the FOP filed the lawsuit, there was a movement to repeal the mandate altogether.

Should the vaccine be mandated for police officers?

On Oct. 29, the City Council met for a special session to decide. Though the measure to repeal the mandate failed in a 13-to-30 vote, there was a heated two-hour discussion among the council members, Block Club Chicago reported. 

Lightfoot strongly rebuked those who backed the measure, saying they were trying to “strip the executive of the ability to manage the executive branch.”

“Because as sure as we are living, the people that are unvaccinated are playing Russian roulette with their lives and they’re playing Russian roulette with the lives of their families, the neighborhoods and the people in the city who have a right to believe that when someone from the city government shows up at their door, they’re there to help them, to save their life, not imperil it,” Lightfoot said.

But the FOP continued to publicly fight the mandate, trying to bring Lightfoot and the city to a point of bargaining and arbitration, FOP President John Catanzara Jr. said.

About 72 percent of police employees have complied with the mandate and submitted their vaccine status, but Catanzara is encouraging many to not comply.

“[This is] the city’s clear attempt to force officers to ‘Chicken Little, the sky is falling’ into compliance. Do not fall for it. Hold the line,” Catanzara said, according to WBEZ-TV.

Chicago police employees are not alone in defiance of the mandate.

On the other side of the country, in Los Angeles County, there was a blatant rejection of the vaccine mandate.

“I don’t want to be in a position to lose 5, 10% of my workforce overnight on a vaccine mandate,” Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said earlier in October, according to NPR.

Villanueva announced that he would not be enforcing Los Angeles County’s vaccine mandate.

Police Benevolent Association of New York, the largest police union in New York City, also opposed the vaccine mandate there. New York’s mandate is stricter than others, requiring all city employees to have at least one dose of the vaccine by Nov. 1, and not allowing weekly testing in lieu of being vaccinated.

All across the country, mandates are being enacted, but legal battles and complaints from unions are challenging these mandates, particularly since non-compliance could penalize first responders.

Abby Liebing is a Hillsdale College graduate with a degree in history. She has written for various outlets and enjoys covering foreign policy issues and culture.

Abby Liebing is a Hillsdale College graduate with a degree in history. She has written for various outlets and enjoys covering foreign policy issues and culture.

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