Arbitrator sides with city on cop vaccinations
Mayor Lori Lightfoot hopes at least some of the roughly 2,800 Chicago police officers who remain unvaccinated will now get their shots, leaving fewer officers subject to suspension or firing.
Chicago Police Supt. David Brown said he is confident rank-and-file officers will comply with a vaccine mandate upheld by an arbitrator who rejected the Fraternal Order of Police’s grievances with the city.
Some 2,800 unvaccinated Chicago police officers must get their first shots by March 13, and their second shots by mid-April, Brown said Thursday.
“Our officers are smart, they have families and they risk their lives for all of us,” Brown said. “We ought to give them their respect for making this tough decision. … We’re at the point where I’d be very surprised if we didn’t have a very small, small subset that doesn’t comply.”
FOP President John Catanzara said the arbitrator’s ruling still leaves some issues unresolved.
The FOP and city went to court over the vaccine mandate last year, after Catanzara urged his members not to comply and predicted half of all officers would be taken off the streets.
A judge paused the vaccine mandate for cops in October, forcing the FOP and city to go back to the negotiating table. But the judge allowed a rule requiring cops to report their vaccination status.
Just over 74% of Chicago Police Department employees report being vaccinated as of Tuesday, according to city data. That’s below the 86% vaccination rate of all city employees, but above the 68% vaccination rate of Chicagoans overall.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot touted the ruling on Wednesday, but said she cannot predict what the FOP might do to challenge it.
She said she hopes at least some officers who remain unvaccinated will now get their shots, leaving fewer officers subject to suspension or firing.
Brown was asked if the vaccine mandate seemed like a contradiction, given that the city is loosening mask and proof-of-vaccine restrictions at the end of the month.
“Not if you use your common sense,” he replied.
“It’s because more people got vaccinated, and more people complied with social distancing, masking,” Brown added. “So I don’t see a conflict. This is the reason why we’re able lift some of the restrictions.”
Catanzara, in a video posted online Wednesday, told his members to “hold the line” and accused Lightfoot of caring more about winning than people’s well-being.
“This mayor, this dictator — I can’t even call her a mayor anymore — is more concerned about this nonsense and taking a victory lap, as this variant disappears slowly but surely and everyone eases restrictions,” Catanzara said.
“She doesn’t care about crime, she don’t care about victims, she doesn’t care about anything but a win,” he said. “It’s absolutely a disgusting, grotesque behavior of leadership, and we’re certainly going to continue to push back.”