Chicago’s police union chief urges officers to defy city’s vaccine mandate

(CHICAGO) — Chicago’s police union chief is urging officers to defy the city’s requirement to report their COVID-19 vaccination status by Friday.

Under the mandate, all city employees must submit their vaccination status by the end of the workweek. Unvaccinated workers who refuse to submit to semiweekly testing will be placed on unpaid leave.

Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara said, “It’s safe to say that the city of Chicago will have a police force at 50% or less for this weekend coming up,” in a video shared on YouTube Tuesday.

He urged officers, “Do not fill out the portal information,” and to file for exemptions. Under the mandate employees can apply for medical or religious exemptions, which will be reviewed on a case by case basis, but they’ll still be required to undergo regular testing.

“I’ve made my status very clear as far as the vaccine, but I do not believe the city has the authority to mandate that to anybody, let alone that information about your medical history,” Catanzara said.

He threatened to take Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration to court if she enforced the mandate.

The Chicago FOP did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

“I can guarantee you that no-pay status will not last more than 30 days,” Catanzara said. “There’s no way they’re going to be able to sustain a police department workforce at 50% capacity or less for more than seven days without something budging.”

There’s been a contentious back and forth between the police union and Lightfoot.

In a press conference Wednesday she said: “There’s all kinds of things that that guy will say, must of it untrue, patently false. We’re not trying to do anything other than create a safe workplace.”

“He’s threatening litigation, I say bring it. Because we’re going to create a safe workplace for all of our employees and by doing that, we create safety for members of the public as well,” she added.

When asked, “What will the city do if over 50% of cops go into work and get sent home this week?” she replied, “I don’t expect that to happen.”

Police have been hit hard by coronavirus.

Four Chicago police officers died of COVID-19 last year, Lightfoot noted. On Tuesday, the Chicago police union’s former president Dean Angelo, 67, died after a weekslong battle with COVID-19, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Nationally, at least 228 officers have died of COVID-19 this, and 245 died in 2020, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page. The page said COVID-19 is the leading cause of death for law enforcement officers in both years.

San Francisco also announced a vaccine requirement for about 35,000 municipal workers in June and those who refuse and don’t get an exemption could be fired. New York announced the same requirement, which includes teachers and cops, which took effect mid-September, affecting some 340,000 city employees.

However, the Chicago police union isn’t the only one voicing opposition to the mandate.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said he won’t enforce a mandate for LA County workers to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 1 for his agency. The mandate allows for religious and medical exemptions.

“No, I am not forcing anyone,” Villanueva said during a town hall-style event on Facebook Live last week. “The issue has become so politicized there are entire groups of employees that are willing to be fired and laid off rather than get vaccinated. I don’t want to be in a position to lose 5, 10% of my workforce overnight on a vaccine mandate.”

In a statement on Oct. 8, Villanueva said, “The Department will continue requiring all of our employees to register with the Fulgent system but will only seek voluntary compliance and testing for the unvaccinated.”

Similarly, in New York City, last week the city’s largest police union, the Police Benevolent Association, shared a statement opposing the vaccine mandate for emergency responders.

“In the PBA’s view, the COVID-19 vaccine is a medical decision that members must make in consultation with their own health care providers. We have pushed to make the vaccine available to all members who seek it, and we will continue to protect the rights of members who are not vaccinated,” President Patrick Lynch said in a statement.

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