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Illinois FOP opposes Pritzker’s vaccine mandate impacting some of the police union’s members

Scot Ward, the president of the FOP Corrections Lodge 263, said in a statement the group isn’t opposed to the vaccine, but “we are opposed to being forced to take it.” “Even the detainees we supervise are not being forced to take these vaccinations.”

Gov. J.B. Pritzker gives a daily update on the coronavirus last year.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker gives a daily update on the coronavirus last year.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times file

The Illinois Fraternal Order of Police State Lodge is opposed to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s vaccine requirement for its members, calling the mandate “vaccine shaming” of public employees.

Scot Ward, the president of the FOP Corrections Lodge 263, which includes employees in the state’s Departments of Corrections and Juvenile Justice facilities, said in a statement his organization isn’t opposed to the vaccine, but “we are opposed to being forced to take it.”

“It is always dangerous when the state unilaterally decides to deny the constitutional rights of targeted groups of citizens, such as our members who work in prisons and juvenile facilities,” Ward said in the statement issued late Thursday. “Even the detainees we supervise are not being forced to take these vaccinations.”

The state FOP, which represents more than 34,000 active duty and retired police officers, is also opposed to a recent order from Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White that would require employees within his office who cannot provide proof of vaccination to submit to a COVID-19 test every two weeks.

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White in 2016.
Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White in 2016.
Rich Hein/Sun-Times file

“The government has resorted to ‘vaccine shaming’ its public safety employees rather than convincing them that getting an immunization is the best course of action,” Terry Trueblood, the president of the Illinois Secretary of State FOP Lodge 95, said in a statement. “The state should instead do a better job of convincing its citizens, regardless of where they work, to choose to take the vaccine.”

Trueblood’s lodge includes police officers within White’s office. That lodge and the one representing officers working in prisons and juvenile facilities are part of the state FOP. State troopers are not subject to the vaccination requirement, nor are any other member lodges, an Illinois FOP spokesman said, adding that the union supports any members who do want to “stand up for their rights.”

Pritzker’s office did not respond to a request for comment. At his announcement Wednesday, the governor said requiring employees who provide services to some of the most vulnerable in the state is “the right thing to do.”

Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks about new mask mandates for schools, state employees and long term care facilities on Wednesday.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks about new mask mandates for schools, state employees and long term care facilities on Wednesday.
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times file

Pritzker announced his vaccine mandate for some state employees Wednesday. That requirement will apply to “all state employees at congregate facilities,” including veterans homes and prisons.

Those workers will have until Oct. 4 to get a shot.

Unvaccinated workers “run the risk of carrying the virus into work with them, and then it’s the residents who are ending up seriously sick hospitalized or worse. It’s a breach of safety, it’s fundamentally wrong,” Pritzker said. “And in Illinois, it’s going to stop.”

Pritzker was knocked by Republicans for his “unilateral” decision-making and by union heads such as Roberta Lynch, the executive director of AFSCME Council 31, who took issue with employees at those facilities being characterized as “part of the problem rather than recognizing their dedication and the vitally important contributions they have made to protecting health and saving lives.”