CHICAGO (AP) – The leader of the Chicago Police Union has called on its members to challenge the city’s requirement to report their COVID-19 vaccination status by Friday or to be put on unpaid leave.
In the video posted online Tuesday and first reported by the Chicago Sun-Times, Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara vowed to take Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration to court if she tries. enforce the mandate, which requires city employees to report their immunization status at the end of the work week. After Friday, unvaccinated workers who fail to submit to bi-weekly coronavirus tests will be placed on unpaid leave.
Catanzara suggested that if the city enforces its requirement and many union members refuse to comply, “it is safe to say that the city of Chicago will have a police force of 50% or less for this weekend. future. “
In the video, Catanzara asks officers to request exemptions to receive the vaccine but not to enter that information into the city’s vaccine portal.
He said that although he made his immunization status clear, “I don’t think the city has the power to mandate anyone, let alone this information about your medical history.”
At a press conference on Wednesday, Lightfoot accused Catanzara of spreading false information and dismissed most of his statements as “false or manifestly false”. She said COVID-19 vaccines have been shown to be effective and getting the vaccine would protect city workers and their families.
“What we are focused on is making sure that we maximize the opportunity to create a very safe workplace,” said Lightfoot. “The data is very clear. It is unfortunate that the FOP leadership has chosen to publish a counter-narrative. But the point is, if you are not vaccinated, you are playing with your life, the lives of your family, the lives of your coworkers and members of the public.
She said the city was ready to deal with any fallout related to the vaccination requirement.
Violent crime has increased in the city this year, from highway shootings to the increase in car hijackings. Chicago police reported 629 homicides this year through early October, up from 605 during the same period last year and 402 during the same period in 2019.
First responders across the country have been hit hard by the virus but have resisted vaccination mandates. More than 460 law enforcement officers have died from COVID-19, including four members of the Chicago Police Department, according to Officer Down Memorial Page. Dean Angelo, who once served as Catanzara’s union post, died of the disease on Tuesday.
The Los Angeles Police and County Sheriff, and Seattle Police are among the departments that have or face vaccination warrants.
Catanzara clashed with the mayor over a host of issues. After the city announced the vaccine’s mandate in August, the union leader compared it to something that could happen to Nazi Germany, telling the Sun-Times: “It’s not Nazi Germany ( saying) “Get in the … showers, the pills won’t hurt you.
Lightfoot lambasted Catanzara for his “offensive outburst” and Catanzara posted a video on the union’s YouTube channel apologizing for his choice of words, saying he was not trying to link the vaccinations to what happened during the Holocaust.
Associated Press editor Sophia Tareen contributed to this report.