Chicago, IL – Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown has threatened to withhold the pensions of officers who choose to retire from the department after not complying with Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s COVID vaccine mandate.
“Sworn members who retire while under disciplinary investigations may be denied retirement credentials,” Superintendent Brown warned in a police memo issued Sunday night, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Lightfoot gave the Chicago Police Department’s (CPD) 12,000 officers until midnight on Oct. 14 to disclose their vaccine status or face unpaid suspension, Chicago Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) President John Catanzara told the Associated Press.
In order to avoid being placed on unpaid leave, officers were required to either provide proof of vaccination or consent to being tested for the virus twice weekly, WFLD reported.
The twice-weekly testing option is available to workers only until the end of the year, when vaccination will be the only option without an approved religious or medical exemption, according to FOX News.
The union president said the city should brace itself for the potential loss of half the Chicago police force.
“If we suspect the numbers are true and we get a large number of our members who stand firm on their beliefs that this is an overreach, and they’re not going to supply the information in the portal or submit to testing, then it’s safe to say the city of Chicago will have a police force at 50 percent or less for this weekend coming up,” Catanzara told the Associated Press last week.
“That is not because of the FOP,” he added. “That is 100 percent because of the mayor’s unwillingness to budge from her hard line. So whatever happens because of the manpower issue, that falls at the mayor’s doorstep.”
The city confirmed on Monday that less than 65 percent of Chicago police officers complied with Lightfoot’s order ahead of the deadline, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Approximately 72 percent of Chicago firefighters have met the requirement.
Nearly all of the other city departments are near 100 percent compliance, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Lightfoot said on Friday that the city would spend the weekend reviewing the status of the officers who haven’t complied with her order before they are placed on unpaid leave, the Associated Press reported.
She said everyone should keep showing up to work until their supervisors tell them they’ve been suspended.
“My expectation is that people who swore an oath to serve and protect the city are going to honor that oath and they’re going to show up, they’re going to report for duty, and they’re going to comply with a legal directive from the city and an order from the police department,” the mayor declared on Oct. 14, according to FOX News. “Anything less would be insubordination.”
Lightfoot’s office confirmed on Monday that a “very small number” of officers have been placed on unpaid leave so far for bucking her order, the Chicago Tribune reported.
In response to Superintendent Brown’s memo, the FOP issued a document to its members outlining how they could respond if they are given a direct order by Internal Affairs to submit their vaccination information into the city’s reporting portal.
“Complying with this INVALID order and the violation of MY Bargaining, Constitutional and Civil Rights has furthermore caused me severe anxiety while challenging both my religious and moral beliefs,” the document reads. “I am in fact complying with this because I am being forced to do so under complete duress and threats of termination.”
The union told members to have the administrator issuing the order sign off on an FOP-issued form, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Lightfoot filed a complaint against the FOP in Cook County Circuit Court on Friday, accusing Catanzara of “engaging in, supporting, and encouraging a work stoppage or strike,” WGN reported.
Lightfoot asked the court for injunctive relief against the FOP.
The court issued a temporary restraining order against Catanzara on Friday night, barring him from making any public statements encouraging FOP members to refuse to comply with the mayor’s mandate, the Chicago Tribune reported.
The order is currently set to run through Oct. 25, when the court is slated to hold another hearing on the matter.
The FOP has also filed a lawsuit against the city, Lightfoot, and Superintendent Brown, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Meanwhile, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker said he has offered to send the Illinois National Guard to Chicago to help fill the gap if massive numbers of CPD officers are placed on unpaid leave, the Chicago Tribune reported.
“We’ve offered every resource, every public safety resource that’s available to the state to offer to municipalities to the city of Chicago, so if the city calls us, we’ll respond,” Pritzker said.
Lightfoot said she believes in “planning and being ready,” but that she doesn’t want to ask the governor to declare a state of emergency or send in additional resources just yet, the Chicago Tribune reported.
“I don’t want to deal in hypothetical scenarios that have not presented themselves,” the mayor said.