Will Chicago's Mayor Suspend Unvaccinated Cops?

AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

As of today, all Chicago police officers are required to be vaccinated under a mandate imposed by Mayor Lori Lightfoot. Failure to report your vaccination status is supposed to result in an unpaid suspension, but with the city’s police union vowing to go to court to block the mandate from being enforced, and potentially thousands of officers who have yet to be vaccinated, Lightfoot has a choice: follow through on her threat to keep officers off the street even while violent crime is soaring, or bow to the reality that her mandate is being met with widespread resistance from many first responders.

There are signs that Lightfoot is looking for an escape hatch from the crisis of her own making, though she’s still pinning the blame on Chicago FOP President John Catanzara.

In a statement, Mayor Lightfoot said, “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 swiftly responded, saying that neither Catanzara or the organization have threatened a strike or a walkout, which is true. Catanzara has maintained that officers should not be subject to a vaccine mandate, but I haven’t seen anything from the FOP indicating that officers shouldn’t show up for work. Instead, it sounded like Catanzara was claiming that up to half of the police force wouldn’t be eligible to work because they won’t submit their vaccination status to the city.

Lightfoot has bought herself a little time by saying that it will take several days for the city to go through thousands of records to find out who’s submitted their vaccination status, but she’s still vowing to keep officers off the job if they refuse to comply her demands.

“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 then yes we will be moving forward into no-pay status,” Mayor Lightfoot said.

So, Chicago’s police officers may be out in full force this weekend, but next weekend could be a very different story. Unfortunately, thanks to Illinois’ draconian gun control laws and the failure of government bureaucracy, any Chicagoan who’s concerned about what all this might mean for their personal safety and is hoping to purchase a firearm for self-defense is out of luck. This fight between Lightfoot and the FOP will be resolved long before a potential gun owner receives the Firearms Owner ID card required to legally own a gun in the state, since the Illinois State Police are currently taking 197 days (on average) to process FOID applications.

Those Chicagoans who are already legal gun owners but want to get their concealed carry license now that there’s a distinct possibility of fewer police on the streets are also hosed. The ISP is taking an average of 167 days to process carry license applications, though if you submit your fingerprints with your application you can shave off a couple of weeks of waiting. According to the latest data from the state police, it’s “only” taking 137 days to process applications with fingerprints submitted alongside the other paperwork.

Crime in Chicago could very well be getting a lot worse over the next few weeks, but law-abiding residents are going to be powerless to protect themselves unless they’ve already navigated the maze of red tape and received their state-issued Second Amendment permission slips. And unlike Lightfoot’s vaccine mandate, if they’re caught violating the state’s FOID card and concealed carry license mandate it won’t result in an unpaid suspension from work. Instead, they’ll be facing a felony charge and a potential prison sentence.

Nov 29, 2021 4:30 PM ET