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Chicago restricts cops from taking time off as city prepares to ax up to unvaccinated 6,500 officers


Chicago is restricting cops from taking time off as the city prepares to ax up to half of its 13,000 officers who are yet to declare their Covid-19 vaccination status.

In a memo issued by the city’s police department a day after officers were required to disclose their vaccine status, officers were informed elective time off will be restricted, according to WLS.

‘Until further notice, the use of elective time by sworn CPD members is restricted,’ the memo obtained by the local network said.

‘Furthermore, the use of elective time will require prior approval from the Deputy chief or above within the requesting member’s chain of command.’

Chicago is restricting cops from taking time off as the city prepares to ax up to half of its 13,000 officers who are yet to declare their Covid-19 vaccination status. Pictured: Chicago Police officers guard the front entrance the their headquarters building during a rally on April 15, 2021, file photo

The memo was issued to all sworn Chicago PD officers on Saturday, and was to be read at all department roll calls for five consecutive days, WLS reported.

City employees in Chicago were required to report their vaccination status by the end of Friday, with those who are not vaccinated to be subject to two tests per week.

A second memo issued on Sunday, also obtained by the news network, threatened to fire officers who do no comply with the CPD’s vaccination policy.

Any civilian or sworn employee who disobeys a direct order to comply with Chicago’s vaccination policy ‘will become the subject of a disciplinary investigation that could result in a penalty up to and including separation from the Chicago Police Department,’ the memo said.

‘Furthermore, sworn members who retire while under disciplinary investigations may be denied retirement credentials,’ it added.

The memos were sent as up to half of Chicago’s police officers – around 6,500 – could face disciplinary action because of a dispute between the city’s mayor Lori Lightfoot and their union, over the vaccine requirement and disclosure requirement. 

The memos were sent as up to half of Chicago's police officers - around 6,500 - could face disciplinary action because of a dispute between the city's mayor Lori Lightfoot (pictured, file photo) and their union, over the vaccine requirement and disclosure requirement

The memos were sent as up to half of Chicago’s police officers – around 6,500 – could face disciplinary action because of a dispute between the city’s mayor Lori Lightfoot (pictured, file photo) and their union, over the vaccine requirement and disclosure requirement

The president of the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police John Catanzara has spoken out against the mandate to report vaccination status.

Catanzara has told officers they are not required to comply with the mandate, saying that the police department has its own Covid-19 policy. 

‘If we suspect the numbers are true, and we get a large number of our members who stand firm on their beliefs that this is an overreach, and they’re not going to supply the information in the portal or submit to testing, then it’s safe to say the city of Chicago will have a police force at 50% or less for this weekend coming up,’ he said last week.

‘That is not because of the FOP; that is 100% because of the mayor’s unwillingness to budge from her hard line. So whatever happens because of the manpower issue, that falls at the mayor’s doorstep.’

Speaking on Friday – the deadline for disclosure – Lightfoot said the city would take the weekend the check with officers who have not complied with the disclosure mandate. 

‘This notion that individual officers get to be insubordinate as they as they choose, and pick and choose. We’re not having that,’ she said. 

In a memo issued by the city's police department a day after officers were required to disclose their vaccine status, officers were informed elective time off will be restricted. Pictured: A woman is given a dose of a Covid-19 vaccine (file photo)

In a memo issued by the city’s police department a day after officers were required to disclose their vaccine status, officers were informed elective time off will be restricted. Pictured: A woman is given a dose of a Covid-19 vaccine (file photo)

But there have been warnings from other officials that push for officer to get vaccinated could leave Chicago’s police department short staffed.

‘No vacation, no comp, no personal days for the foreseeable future, is because they know that come Monday, there’s going to be a situation where they’re going to start sending officers home because of their refusal to participate in the vaccine mandate and they’re reporting,’ Alderman Ray Lopez said, according to WLS. 

The 15th Ward alderman added: ‘This should have been very simple issue for us. Get vaccinated. Let us know so that we can move forward, but instead it’s become a battle of wits.’

‘Roughly 38% of the sworn officers on this job, almost 40% can lock in a pension and walk away, today,’ Catanzara warned. ‘Whatever happens because of the manpower issue, that falls at the mayor’s doorstep.’

According to the Officer Down Memorial page, Covid-19 is the leading cause of death among officers across the country in 2020 and 2021, with more than 460 dying from Covid infections – more than four times as many to have died from gunfire in the same time period.

Chicago is not the only city which is facing a dispute between the local government and law enforcement unions.

City employees in Chicago were required to report their vaccination status by the end of Friday, with those who are not vaccinated to be subject to two tests per week

City employees in Chicago were required to report their vaccination status by the end of Friday, with those who are not vaccinated to be subject to two tests per week

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.

The feud between Lightfoot and Catanzara escalated when Lightfoot brought the fight to court and filed a Complaint for Injunctive Relief against the police union 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 FOP fired back and filed a lawsuit against the city, mayor and police Superintendent David Brown, asking for more intervention on the matter, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The feud between Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (pictured) and head of the Chicago Branch of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) John Catanzara started when Lightfoot announced a mandate requiring the city's 13,000 cops to disclose their vaccination status by October 15 or face unpaid leave

Head of the Chicago Branch of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) John Catanzara (pictured) has hinted at a strike in response and said that up to 6,500 Chicago cops could be left without a job

The feud between Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (left) and head of the Chicago Branch of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) John Catanzara (right) started 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

On Friday evening, 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.

Judge Cecilia Horan ruled there was potential irreparable harm if Catanzara continued such statements. 

City attorneys argued they were tantamount to him advocating ‘sedition’ and ‘anarchy’ because he was directing members to disobey an order from their superiors.

Lightfoot asked the court to prohibit the union and its officers from ‘engaging in any concerted refusal to submit vaccination status information’ to the city’s portal. 

She also asked it to order Catanzara to stop urging members to refuse to provide their vaccination status information and to ‘issue a retraction and disavowal of his … directives to FOP members that they refuse to submit vaccination status information.’

Lightfoot said that by urging union members to not report their COVID-19 by Friday’s deadline, Catanzara put the public in danger.

According to the Officer Down Memorial page , Covid-19 is the leading cause of death among officers across the country in 2020 and 2021

According to the Officer Down Memorial page , Covid-19 is the leading cause of death among officers across the country in 2020 and 2021

‘By doing so, and by predicting that 50% or more officers will violate their oaths and not report for duty, Catanzara is encouraging an unlawful strike and work stoppage which carries the potential to undermine public safety and expose our residents to irreparable harm, particularly during an ongoing pandemic,’ she wrote in the court filing.

Catanzara has maintained that the officers have a legal right to follow his request to show up for work and be sent home for refusing to fill out the city’s COVID-19 portal.

‘This is not a job action, not a call for a strike – none of that illegal stuff that I’m sure the city is going to make it out to be,’ he said in a video posted Tuesday.

Then on Friday, the FOP filed its own complaint seeking a temporary restraining order to compel the city to go into arbitration over the mandate.

‘They can take us to court all they want,’ he said in a video posted on the union’s website along with a copy of the complaint. ‘We already are filing paperwork to dismiss that silly motion.’

In a video posted Thursday, he told union members that if a superior orders them to submit their vaccination status to the portal, they should refuse because he said it would be an improper and illegal order. 

He also called on members to try to record any attempts to force them to comply with the city’s order on their body cameras.

On Thursday afternoon, Lightfoot and top police officials tried to assuage public concerns that the department would be severely understaffed this weekend, saying officers would not be sent home if they showed up to work Friday and refused to go onto the portal and provide the vaccination status.

Lightfoot said officers who do refuse to the provide the information will be placed on unpaid leave, but that it wouldn’t happen until after the weekend because confirming compliance would take a few days. 

She did make it clear, though, that there would be consequences for refusing to provide the information, which Lightfoot said would constitute an act of insubordination.

First Deputy Eric Carter said that officers were expected to meet Friday’s deadline unless they had an approved medical or religious exemption. 

Those who don’t comply could face discipline as severe as being fired. He also said that under the city’s rules, those who aren’t vaccinated by Friday must get tested twice per week on their own time and at their own expense until the end of the year, when they would be required to be vaccinated. 

According to data from the New York Times, Illinois recorded a daily average of 2,265 coronavirus cases on Sunday, and 33.1 daily average deaths. In the state, 54 percent of people have been fully vaccinated.



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