Judge Orders Chicago Police Union President Not to Discourage Members From Getting COVID-19 Vaccine

By Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. news and stories relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. He is based in Maryland.
October 16, 2021 Updated: October 17, 2021

A judge in Illinois has ordered the head of the Chicago police union to stop encouraging members not to get a COVID-19 vaccine, just hours before the city’s deadline for officers to report their vaccination status to the city took effect.

Cook County Circuit Judge Cecilia Horan issued the ruling on Oct. 15 after a lengthy emergency hearing on a request for injunctive relief that the city filed earlier in the day, local news outlets reported.

John Catanzara, the president of the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police, urged officers last week not to comply with the city’s requirement for them to reveal whether they’ve gotten the vaccine.

“I’ve made my status very clear as far as the vaccine, but I do not believe the city has the authority to mandate that to anybody—let alone that information about your medical history,” he said in a video posted on the union’s YouTube page.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot accused union leaders of “trying to foment an illegal work stoppage, a strike,” and the city launched a lawsuit leading to the judge’s order. The union filed a motion to dismiss in return and a separate lawsuit that asked a judge to order arbitration.

All city workers, including officers, were required to report their vaccination status by Oct. 15. Unvaccinated workers would have to undergo twice-weekly COVID-19 testing and pay for the tests out of their own pocket. Workers who don’t share their vaccination status face suspension. Additionally, a Dec. 31 deadline is in place for all employees to be fully vaccinated against the virus that causes COVID-19, unless approved for a religious or medical exemption.

Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot speaks during a press conference outside of Wrigley Field in Chicago, on April 16, 2020. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

The restraining order on Catanzara is in place until Oct. 25, when another hearing is scheduled.

In a brief statement, the Chicago Department of Law described the ruling but offered no further comment.

Catanzara released a one-minute video shortly after the judge’s order, telling members that the judge granted a restraining order.

“With that being said, everybody has to do what’s in their hearts and minds, whatever that is,” he said, before holding a sign suggesting he was running for mayor in 2023.

A lawyer for the city said in court that the mandate wouldn’t be enforced over the weekend, NBC Chicago reported. But he indicated that once the number of officers who refuse to comply is calculated, there would be punishment levied.

“At some point for individuals and officers who still have not reported their status in the portal, when that information is tabulated, for those who are still not in compliance, there will be enforcement,” he said. “They could be disciplined, or they could be sent home and put in a no-pay status.”

Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. news and stories relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. He is based in Maryland.