CHICAGO — The head of the Chicago police officers union has called on its members to defy the city's requirement to report their COVID-19 vaccination status by Friday or be placed on unpaid leave.
In the video posted online Tuesday and first reported on by the Chicago Sun-Times, Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara vowed to take Mayor Lori Lightfoot's administration to court if it tries to enforce the mandate, which requires city workers to report their vaccine status by the end of the work week. After Friday, unvaccinated workers who won't submit to semiweekly coronavirus testing will be placed on unpaid leave.
Catanzara suggested that if the city does enforce its requirement and many union members refuse to comply with it, "it's safe to say that the city of Chicago will have a police force at 50% or less for this weekend coming up."
A spokesperson for the mayor said her office would not issue a statement in response to Catanzara's remarks. Neither the mayor's office nor the police department immediately responded to Wednesday requests for comment. The mayor had a press briefing scheduled for later in the day.
In the video, Catanzara instructs officers to file for exemptions to receiving the vaccine but to not enter that information into the city's vaccine portal.
He said that although he has made clear his vaccine status, "I do not believe the city has the authority to mandate that to anybody, let alone that information about your medical history."
First responders around the country have been hit hard by the virus but have been resisting vaccination mandates. More than 460 law enforcement officers have died of COVID-19, including four members of the Chicago Police Department, according the Officer Down Memorial Page. On Tuesday, Dean Angelo, who once held Catanzara's union position, died of the disease.
Catanzara's has clashed with the mayor over a host of issues. After the city announced the vaccine mandate in August, the union head compared it to something that might happen to Nazi Germany, telling the Sun-Times, "This ain't Nazi ... Germany (saying) 'Step into the... showers, the pills won't hurt you.'"
Lightfoot blasted 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 vaccinations to what happened during the Holocaust.