Chicago, IL

Judge Lifts Restraining Order Prohibiting FOP Leader From Encouraging Chicago Police to Defy Mayor’s Vaccine Mandate

Natalie Frank, Ph.D.

A Chicago judge has frozen the December 31st deadline for city workers to be vaccinated or be placed on unpaid leave, allowing for arbitration of claims.

In August, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced that all city workers would be required to receive COVID-19 vaccines with proof provided online by October 15th. Lightfoot previously had declared that public school employees would also be obligated to be vaccinated by the same date. Until providing proof of vaccination up until October 15th, school employees were required to be tested a minimum of once weekly, with anyone having an approved exemption required to test weekly throughout the school year. The Chicago Teacher’s Union (CTU) supported this policy. The deadline for city workers was later extended to December 31st5.

While the CTU backed the mayor’s vaccine mandate, the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) had a very different response. The head of the FOP, John Catanzara immediately took to social media and began calling on members to defy Lightfoot’s edict. Since then, the fight between the Mayor’s office and the FOP has grown increasingly contentious with the FOP claiming as much as 50 percent of the CPD could resign and police brass threatening that officers resigning rather than comply could lose their benefits.

On October 14th, Circuit Judge Cecilia Horan granted the city’s request for an injunction which prohibited Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara from using social media platforms to urge union members to disobey the Lightfoot’s requirement to enter their vaccination status on Chicago’s data portal. But now a judge has lifted the restraining order that barred Catanzara from encouraging members to defy Mayor Lightfoot’s vaccination mandate.

Catanzara had previously stated that the FOP would take Lightfoot to court if she attempted to enforce her mandate requiring city workers to report their vaccine status, with unvaccinated employees being required to submit to semiweekly testing or be placed on unpaid leave.

Judge Raymond Mitchell suspended the Dec. 31 deadline for Chicago police officers to be vaccinated against COVID-19. He stated that anyone who opposes the policy should submit their complaint to an arbitrator as a labor grievance.

“The effect of this order is to send these parties back to the bargaining table and to promote labor peace by allowing them to pursue remedies under Illinois law,” Mitchell said.

In response to the controversy, Senator Braun (R-Indiana) said that the state of Indiana welcomed police officers from Chicago who refused to comply with the vaccine mandate. A growing number of Chicago officers have applied to transferred to northwestern Indiana in order to avoid being forced to receive the vaccination and disclose their vaccination status by the end of the year.

"Our police do the hardest job in the world, and they deserve respect — not losing their pay or being fired for refusing to comply with a ridiculous vaccine mandate,” said Braun.

Other Indiana officials have been accused of helping Chicago police officers defy the vaccine mandate issued by Mayor Lori Lightfoot including Munster, Indiana, Police Chief Steve Scheckel.

“There is a brighter future right over the border," said Scheckel in a message intended for Chicago police officers. for police coming from Chicago.

Although Judge Mitchell froze the deadline for vaccinations, he didn't block the requirement that Chicago police officers be tested regularly. It is also possible for Chicago police officers to lose work and pay if they refuse to reveal their vaccination status.

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Chicago, IL
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