CHICAGO — Police leaders and the mayor of Chicago said Thursday that police officers in Chicago will not be ordered to go home if they fail to comply with the city’s requirement to report their COVID-19 vaccination status or take unpaid leave.
“No one will be turned away,” said Tom Ahern, spokesman for the police department. “Officers will work their regular shifts this weekend (and) will not be turned away or sent home… Officers will continue to work until they are told otherwise (and) that they are no longer paid.”
Ahern’s comments followed a video posted on the union website by police officers this week in which the union president urged members not to report their vaccination status until Friday, the deadline set by Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration for city workers, and such a refusal could result. . they are sent home.
Those who do not present their vaccination status will be given unpaid leave.
Lightfoot said that officers who are expected to work over the weekend should arrive, and those who do not report their vaccination status will go to unpaid status. But he also said there will be no such move this weekend because it will take several days to confirm eligibility.
“My expectation is that people who have sworn to serve and protect the city will fulfill that vow and show up, report for duty, and abide by a legal requirement. “An order from the city and an order from the police department,” Lightfoot told reporters on Thursday.
First responders nationwide have been hit hard by the virus, but some are resisting vaccination mandates. According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, more than 460 law enforcement officers have died from COVID-19, including four members of the Chicago Police Department.
Los Angeles police and county sheriff, and Seattle and Denver police are among the departments that are either under vaccine jurisdiction or facing a vaccine.
On Thursday afternoon, senior police officials in Chicago assured the public that the department would be fully staffed over the weekend. But they also made it clear that officers who refuse to comply with the city’s mandate risk disciplinary action or dismissal.
First Assistant Police Inspector Eric Carter said officers would be expected to meet Friday’s deadline unless they have an approved medical or religious exemption. According to the city’s rules, those who are not vaccinated by Friday must be tested twice a week at their own time and expense until the end of the year they are due to be vaccinated.
Police Chief John Catanzara said in a video released Tuesday that the city would have a “50% or less for this weekend” police force if police officers were turned down.
He also told officers to apply for exemption from vaccination, but not to post this information on the city’s portal, adding to the base, “I don’t believe the city has the authority to give it to anyone, let alone that information about your medical history.” He did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.
City officials said there is no requirement to enter detailed medical information, only vaccination status and proof of vaccination.
The city has a similar COVID-19 vaccination requirement for employees of city schools supported by the Chicago Teachers’ Union.
A city database showed that around 90% of teachers, administrators and other school staff were already vaccinated. Less than 1% received medical exemption and 3.5% received religious exemption.
City officials said those who don’t meet Friday’s vaccine deadline won’t be suspended from work, but must undergo weekly tests until their vaccinations are up. Those who do not get vaccinated or consent to weekly tests will not be eligible to work and receive a salary in the country’s third-largest school district.