The Chicago Police Department has started placing officers on unpaid leave for failing to report their vaccination status by Friday’s deadline.
As of Tuesday, 4,543 officers – a little over one third of the force – have not complied and are being given one last chance to report whether they’ve been vaccinated or be put on no-pay status.
Meanwhile, the city has started seeking recruits from suburban Illinois to fill the potential staffing shortage.
So far, about 50 officers have been placed on an unpaid status, according to Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Monday, however, called the 50 officers a ‘very small number’ who have had their pay stopped by the city for refusing to cooperate with the mandate.
About one third of the Chicago Police Department, or 4,543 officers, have not complied with the city’s demand to report their vaccination status
As of Tuesday, about 50 officers were placed on unpaid status for refusing. Some said that Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s mandate violates their collective bargaining rights
Ahead of Friday’s deadline, the police department warned in a memo that officers who defy the the mandate would ‘become the subject of a disciplinary investigation that could result in a penalty up to and including separation from the Chicago Police Department.’
Of Chicago’s 12,770 police officers, 8,227 – about 64 percent – submitted their vaccination status, according to the city’s Vax Portal Report. Of the responses, 6,894 said they have been vaccinated and 1,333 – or 16 percent of those who responded – said they have not.
Those who aren’t vaccinated must be tested for COVID-19 twice a week on their own time and expense until December 31, when they will be required to be vaccinated or they will be placed on unpaid suspension.
A memo sent by First Deputy Superintendent Eric Carter adds that officers who chose to retire while they are under investigation for not complying, ‘may be denied retirement credentials.’
It isn’t clear what he meant by ‘retirement credentials’ and a spokesperson for the department said that ‘retirement benefits’ wouldn’t be affected by officers refusing the vaccination order.
‘The retirement benefits earned by sworn members of CPD are not impacted by compliance or noncompliance with the portal and vaccine mandate,’ Erin Keane, executive director of the Policemen’s Annuity and Benefit Fund of Chicago, told DailyMail.com on Monday.
Requests for further comment from Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office were not answered.
Union President John Catanzara posted instructions on the union’s Facebook page for what officers could do if they are approached by their superiors and given a direct order to report their vaccination status
Catanzara has been staunchly against the mandate and has pursued legal action on the ground that the city didn’t abide by the union’s collective bargaining rights.
‘The collective bargaining agreement has always been at the heart of this,’ he told NBC Chicago. ‘The demand for arbitration was given to the city 10 days ago, and they chose to ignore it.’
Catanzara posted instructions on the union’s Facebook page for what officers could do if they are approached by their superiors and given a direct order to report their vaccination status. He cited a letter they could sign documenting what they say goes against their collective bargaining rights.
The letter reads, ‘Complying with this INVALID order and the violation of MY Bargaining, Constitutional and Civil Rights has furthermore caused me severe anxiety while challenging both my religious and moral beliefs. I am in fact complying with this because I am being forced to do so under complete duress and threats of termination.’
Throughout the union’s Facebook page are posts and comments reading ‘hold the line,’ which is a call by the union to refuse to comply as long as they can without losing their job.
Of Chicago’s 12,770 police officers, 8,227 – about 64 percent – submitted their vaccination status, according to the city’s Vax Portal Report. Of the responses, 6,894 said they have been vaccinated and 1,333 – or 16 percent of those who responded – said they have not
Those who aren’t vaccinated must be tested for COVID-19 twice a week on their own time and expense until December 31, when they will be required to be vaccinated or forfeit their job
‘If you refuse to comply with the Portal, they are immediately stripping you of your police powers, taking your star, taking your ID and putting you in a ‘no paid’ status,’ Catanzara said in the Facebook video.
He continued, ‘We have case example after case example where even insubordination is not a fireable offense, regardless of what the first deputy says. And shame on him, he likes to make all these threats and promises out there on social media and in AMC messages, but his coward a** doesn’t have the balls to give the direct order himself in these rooms, he sends other people and gives them the order to do it. Shouldn’t anybody be surprised?’
Catanzara’s Facebook video came on Monday night, just three days after a judge granted the city’s request for a temporary injunction barring Catanzara from making any public comments that encourage FOP members to disobey the city’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate until the next hearing on the city’s lawsuit on October 25.
Of the city departments that responded to the city’s vaccine portal, the police department has the lowest response rate next to the Chicago Fire Department. Of the fire department’s 4,097 members, 3,538 – about 72 percent – filled out the Portal survey with 2,974 saying they have been vaccinated and 564 – about 16 percent – saying they have not.
NBC Chicago spoke to two police officers who were placed on unpaid status Monday, both of whom said that they did so because they felt their union rights were being violated.
Lightfoot has accused union boss John Catanzara of trying to ‘incite an insurrection’ by discouraging police officers to get vaccinated
‘It was emotional for everyone, especially for me,’ Officer Elizabeth Alaniz said. ‘I was given a direct order to do so, and I said I would not comply with that direct order. We have a process that needs to go through our union, and this is not being met.’
Alaniz, works in the department’s extradition unit, has been on the Chicago police force for more than 20 years before turning in her badge yesterday.
NBC Chicago spoke to another officer, who declined to disclose their identity and said that they are vaccinated, but still was not comfortable complying with an order that they said goes against their union contract.
‘These are rights that our union is fighting for, and if we let them take this from us, what else will they take away?’ the officer told the news outlet.
Meanwhile, the Chicago Police Department has shown no hesitation to start looking for officers to fill the holes left by those who didn’t comply with the vaccination reporting order.
‘I don’t engage in a lot of hypotheticals. Obviously, we have contingency plans in place for some time,’ Lightfoot said to WGN-TV. ‘What we’re seeing is the number of folks who are after being given the opportunities and direct order saying no is very small. I’m not seeing that there’s is going to be any disruption in our ability to keep our neighborhoods safe, we have to keep plugging away at this that will play itself out over the next couple [of] days.’
A coordinator from the Illinois Law Enforcement Alarm System sent an email to a dozen police officials across the state to request that they speak with members about potentially responding to emergencies in Chicago and how fast they could report to them, Chicago’s WGN-TV reported.
The email read, ‘To be clear, if members of the ILEAS Special Teams programs are requested, it would be for emergency situations, NOT for routine police assistance and the answering of calls for service within the city limits. Illinois State Police and Cook County Sheriff’s Office would be tasked with the patrol needs,’ the email read.
Some suburban departments said they weren’t comfortable answering the call. ‘I will not send my personnel to Chicago unless an officer is under direct duress because I cannot support this slanted agenda,’ Kane County Sheriff Ron Hain told WGN-TV.
He added, ‘I also will not allow my deputies to be subjected to use of force in the City and be under the prosecutorial jurisdiction of the Cook County State’s Attorney.’
Lightfoot herself violated pandemic rules October 17 when she flaunted state and local mask mandates by posing bare-faced at a basketball game.
The feud between Lightfoot and Catanzara began when Lightfoot announced a mandate requiring the city’s 13,000 cops to disclose their vaccination status by October 15 or face unpaid leave.
Catanzara has hinted at a strike in response and said that up to 6,500 Chicago cops could be left without a job.
Meanwhile, the city has begun recruiting from suburban Illinois to fill potential shortfalls
Lightfoot brought her war with the union to court last week after filing a complaint for injunctive relief against the FOP and Catanzara.
She said in Thursday’s filing that the police union president was ‘engaging in, supporting and encouraging a work stoppage or strike.’
The mayor on Monday continued her attack on Catanzara, who was suspended from the police force in February for allegedly falsifying police reports.
He was also accused of making seditious and profane posts on his Facebook account between November 2016 and February 2018.
Now, he’s discouraging officers to get vaccinated.
‘John Catenzara destroyed his police career,’ Lightfoot said. ‘Destroyed it. He’s not fit, and he’s never going to go back to the department in any kind of active position. I don’t want him to lead these young officers astray and have them destroy their careers like he’s destroyed his.’
Chicago is not the only city which is facing a dispute between the local government and law enforcement unions.
In Baltimore, a police union leader told officer not to disclose their vaccination status to officials amid negotiations over a mandate that is scheduled to take effect in the city from next week, according to local media.
City leaders in San Jose, California made a last-minute U-turn by decided that unvaccinated officers could remain employed until the end of the year just as a mandate was about to take effect.
Despite pushback from police in Ann Arbor, Michigan, officials reiterated a vaccine mandate for all city employees this week.
Meanwhile in Seattle, a police union warned that the city’s shortage of police officers will be made worse by vaccine mandates.