As more aldermen raised concerns about a possible shortage of first responders this weekend if police and firefighters are sent home for not complying with the mandate, the mayor remained adamant that all city workers must report their vaccination status by Friday or they will be put on no-pay status.
“If you fail to report your status by then you will be placed in that non disciplinary no pay status,” Mayor Lightfoot said.
Thousands of officers are now caught between two opposing sets of orders, with the mayor asking for compliance and FOP president John Catanzara instructing his members to refuse to comply.
“If somebody orders you to go into the portal, refuse that order, document it on bodycam if you can,” he said.
CPD officers are city employees and thus subject to the city’s COVID vaccine mandate. But with the police union remaining defiant, and predicting that perhaps half of the force will be sent home for not complying with the mandate, alderman were split in their frustrations.
“I don’t think people realize what could possibly happen if several hundred officers, firefighters and paramedics aren’t on duty this weekend, based on what we’ve experience in the past several months with the rise in crime,” said 19th Ward Alderman Matt O’Shea.
“With the refusal, some of them not to get vaccinated, is a violation of their oath to serve and protect the people of Chicago,” said 26th Ward Alderman Roberto Maldonado.
“I represent nearly 700 police officers who are concerned about backup,” said 13th Ward Alderman Marty Quinn. “And if there is a shortage of police, who’s going to be their backup?”
“I’m asking the governor that if this happens, he needs to declare a state of emergency and unleash all resources he has available to him, to make sure the city is safe,” said 9th Ward Alderman Anthony Beale.
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 off this city,” said Brian McDermott, Chief of Operations
Lightfoot was joined by leaders from several departments, touting the success of the mandate and rising compliance. The mayor continued to push people to comply, and top cops had a warning to rank and file officers.
“We can fully expect that members will show up. And unless they’re told to go home, they need to report for duty. Now, if they don’t show up, that’s a whole different issue, but my expectation is that people who swore an oath to serve and protect the city are going to honor that oath,” she said.
“Members who refuse to comply will be subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination,” said CPD 1st Deputy Superintendent Eric Carter.
The mayor saying it could take a few days to sort out who has reported their vaccine status and who has not, and then to verify that. So, she said, people will not be sent home on no-pay status this weekend, likely averting a police manpower crisis. Still, she insists the deadline is in fact a deadline.
“Once we understand that people have not complied with the simple request to say yes or no, or that I’m going to take the testing option, yes, we will be moving forward and putting people into no-pay status,” she said.
As it stands, the city mandate puts a no-pay status on any city worker who does not turn in their vaccine status by Friday.
“The only way we can make this work is we’ve got to hold people accountable, and we are absolutely prepared to do that,” Lightfoot said.
Lightfoot directly addressed police officers Wednesday.
“Again, our messages to the members: Protect yourself. Protect your family, protect your partner, protect members of the public, get yourself vaccinated,” she said.
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But the union Wednesday night was still telling officers not to share their vaccination status by Friday’s deadline.
Earlier this week, the FOP said it would pursue legal action to block the city’s vaccine mandate. As of Thursday, that had not happened.
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