Chicago DROPS Vaccine Mandate Lawsuit Against Police Union

The city of Chicago on Wednesday withdrew its lawsuit against the police union over its battle over a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for city employees.

The city claims the complaint became unnecessary as more officers obeyed, but it comes a month after a judge embarrassed Mayor Lori Lightfoot by suspending her December 31 deadline.

Chicago had sued the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 in October, accusing President John Catanzara of encouraging an “illegal strike” by encouraging officers to disobey the order.

After dropping the lawsuit, Lightfoot vowed Wednesday that if union leaders revived talk of an “illegal work stoppage” over the mandate, the city would return to court.

The city of Chicago dropped its vaccine lawsuit against the police union on Wednesday after a judge suspended the deadline imposed by Mayor Lori Lightfoot (above)

The city of Chicago dropped its vaccine lawsuit against the police union on Wednesday after a judge suspended the deadline imposed by Mayor Lori Lightfoot (above)

The city had sued the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 in October, accusing President John Catanzara (above) of encouraging an 'illegal strike'

The city had sued the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 in October, accusing President John Catanzara (above) of encouraging an 'illegal strike'

The city had sued the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 in October, accusing President John Catanzara (above) of encouraging an ‘illegal strike’

Chicago’s policing mandate raised concerns about a police shortage at a time when the city is experiencing a surge in violent crime.

This year, the city has seen 739 homicides so far, a 3 percent increase from last year’s already high figure and a 60 percent jump from 2019. The number of shootings is up 9 percent and 66 percent, respectively. compared to 2020 and 2019.

Lightfoot’s shaky position with the police was compounded by the murder of Officer Ella French, which saw many turn their backs on the mayor as she visited French’s injured partner in hospital.

Having previously written off the police force, Lightfoot has now backed to put more money into it amid a deteriorating crime rate in her town.

The city insisted that those who failed to adhere to the vaccine mandate would eventually be placed on “no-pay” status.

In public statements and on social media, Catanzara encouraged police not to obey the order, saying ‘don’t step on it, hold on to a leash’. The union also filed a lawsuit.

Lightfoot said the mandate was set up to protect officers and the public, and the Democrat mayor accused the police union of “revolt” for defying its orders.

More than 460 law enforcement officers have died from COVID-19, including four in Chicago, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.

“From day one when this demand was announced in August, this entire process has been and will be about protecting the life and safety of all Chicago residents,” Lightfoot said in a statement.

“The data shows that we are succeeding in that mission and that police officers recognize that protecting and serving in times of a global pandemic means getting vaccinated against COVID-19.”

Police have lagged behind other city departments in adhering to steps in the city’s vaccine requirements.

Employees must first report their vaccination status and, with few exceptions, be vaccinated by the end of the year.

However, the percentage of police officers reporting their status has risen from about 65 percent in October to about 87 percent this week, according to the city. Most other city services are close to or at 100 percent compliance.

Chicago police officers join other city workers and their supporters at City Hall to protest the mayor's vaccination policy for city employees on Oct. 25, 2021 in Chicago

Chicago police officers join other city workers and their supporters at City Hall to protest the mayor's vaccination policy for city employees on Oct. 25, 2021 in Chicago

Chicago police officers join other city workers and their supporters at City Hall to protest the mayor’s vaccination policy for city employees on Oct. 25, 2021 in Chicago

Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 members and their supporters protest COVID-19 vaccine mandates outside City Hall ahead of a Chicago City Council meeting in October

Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 members and their supporters protest COVID-19 vaccine mandates outside City Hall ahead of a Chicago City Council meeting in October

Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 members and their supporters protest COVID-19 vaccine mandates outside City Hall ahead of a Chicago City Council meeting in October

About 66 percent of police personnel are fully vaccinated, compared to about 75 percent of firefighters.

Some much smaller departments, including the Budget Office, report 100 percent vaccination rates, according to city data.

Last month, a judge lifted the December 31 deadline to allow police to vaccinate, but did not change the requirement that they be tested regularly.

The judge said the vaccination disputes should be treated as a labor grievance, which city officials said could take months.

Catanzara, who has repeatedly clashed with Lightfoot, retired as an officer last month as he faced disciplinary hearings over previous inflammatory comments.

He remains union chairman and did not immediately return a message left on Wednesday asking for comment.

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