Chicago police vaccine mandate: Judge orders FOP president not to comment as deadline arrives

FOP President John Catanzara posts new video appearing to announce mayoral run

Saturday, October 16, 2021
Judge orders FOP president not to comment on vaccine mandate
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The war of words over Mayor Lori Lightfoot's Chicago vaccine mandate has now turned into a battle of lawsuits, with a victory for the city Friday night.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The war of words over Mayor Lori Lightfoot's Chicago vaccine mandate has now turned into a battle of lawsuits, with a victory for the city Friday night.

The deadline for Chicago city employees to report their vaccination status is midnight, but the city said it will take them days to sort out who got the shots and who didn't.

The worry was that many police officers would have to be sent home, leaving the city without officers. But the city said going through thousands of records will take time, and no one will be asked to go home or not allowed to work.

WATCH: Political analyst weighs in on CPD vaccine mandate

Meanwhile, the city and the four unions representing police officers have filed injunctions against one another. Both the mayor and police remain defiant in their positions, and now a pair of judges are being asked to sort out the standoff.

The judge granted a temporary restraining order banning Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara, Jr. from making any further public statements urging his members not to comply with the vaccine reporting mandate. City attorneys said that amounted to "sedition and mutiny."

In court, city attorneys agreed that officers who don't enter their vaccination status will not be sent home without pay. But they refused to delay implementing the order that goes into effect at midnight.

The judge is encouraging both sides to continue discussions on the vaccine mandate over the weekend. Both sides will be back in court on October 25.

Catanzara said in court that he is vaccinated. Shortly after the hearing, he posted a short video message on YouTube in which he held up a sign that read, "John Catanzara for Mayor 2023."

As the legal fight continues, the vaccine mandate is pushing police to the edge, with thousands of officers waiting to see if their future comes down to a vaccination or a job.

Earlier, Lightfoot urged police officers not to listen to Catanzara. She said they must comply with the vaccine status reporting order - or find another job.

"This notion that individual officers get to be insubordinate as they as they choose, and pick and choose. We're not having that," Lightfoot said. "And if that's the police department they want to be as they should walk to another police department."

RELATED: IL Governor JB Pritzker working to close loophole exploited for vaccine mandate

A 22-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department who asked Eyewitness News to not reveal her identity for fear of retribution, was adamant that the mayor has no right to require it, calling it a matter of freedom and choice.

"Unfortunately you cannot give me a direct order that is outside of my collective bargaining rights," the officer said. "She may think it's for the greater good, unfortunately, each individual is in charge of their own life and their own health."

The city is now suing the Fraternal Order of Police, accusing them of engaging in an illegal work stoppage. Police, by law, cannot strike.

"If those who are sworn to uphold the law, act as if they're above the law, we're not going to tolerate that," Lightfoot said.

The FOP and three other police unions have filed a countersuit accusing the city of violating their collective bargaining rights.

"I just want to be very clear: this union never called for a strike or a job action. We told our officers to continue to go to work. It was a city that was threatening to lock out our officers for not complying with an improper directive," said John Catanzara, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7.

Officers have until midnight to report their vaccination status on the city's vaccine portal. Lightfoot issued an ultimatum for those who refuse.

"But this notion that individual officers get to be insubordinate as they as they choose and pick and choose. We're not having that. And if that's the police department they want to be as they should walk to another police department," said Mayor Lightfoot.

The veteran officer we spoke with said she never thought it would get to this point.

"I never thought we would ever get to a place that I would feel it mandatory to walk away based on someone telling me what to do with my health," the officer said.

She added that she thinks a lot of other cops may walk away as well.

Lightfoot said in a statement Friday, "Yesterday, at my direction the City of Chicago's law department filed a Complaint for Injunctive Relief against the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 and its President John Catanzara for engaging in, supporting, and encouraging a work stoppage or strike.

"As Chicago's Mayor, I cannot and will not stand idly by while the rhetoric of conspiracy theorists threatens the health and safety of Chicago's residents and first responders. President Catanzara has time and again deliberately misled our police officers by lying about the requirements of the policy and falsely claiming that there will be no repercussions if officers are insubordinate and refuse to follow a City and Department directive or order. Notably Catanzara has urged officers to reject the City's vaccine policy and has repeatedly instructed police officers to refuse to comply with the City's lawful directive which requires all City employees to report their COVID 19 vaccination status by October 15. 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.

"This action is brought pursuant to the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act and Illinois common law which prohibits sworn officers from engaging in a strike. Additionally, the City and the FOP are parties to a collective bargaining agreement that establishes the terms and conditions of employment including Article 5 which includes a No Strike Commitment."

The FOP responded on Twitter saying, "President John Catanzara has never engaged in, supported, or encouraged a work stoppage. @LoriLightfoot is the only one who has said she will send our dedicated Officers home without pay if they choose to reject her unlawful orders. Hold the line, CPD, like you always do."

"We have a profession that nobody wants to work in," Catanzara said on Fox News Thursday night. "It gave us a little bit stronger position. You can't lay off or get rid of thousands of cops because you'll never replace them. We can't even replace what we've got now."

Mayor Lightfoot and Dr. Allison Arwady held an event on Chicago's latest vaccine initiative at the Erie Family Health Teen Center. Lightfoot commented on the action against the FOP at the event.

"What we have seen from the Fraternal Order of Police and particularly the leadership, is a lot of misinformation, a lot of half-truths and frankly flat-out lies in order to induce an insurrection and we're not having that," she said. "We want to make it very, very clear that the law is on our side."

Governor JB Pritzker said help is available if the city requests it.

"You can't just march national guard into the city without coordinating. You can't just march state police into the city without coordinating with the Chicago police department. So at every turn we have conversations with them," he said.

But the mayor and police brass don't believe that will be necessary.

"Chicago Police Department will be fully staffed and ready to protect the citizens of this city," said Brian McDermott, Chicago Police Chief of Operations.

Lightfoot said Friday that she believes, in the end, a lot of officers will comply with the mandate to report their vaccination status and avoid disciplinary action.