Chicago PD: Most cops put on no-pay status over vaccine changed their minds

The city's mandate required officers to report their vaccine status by last Friday


By Stephanie Casanova
Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO — Despite an ongoing standoff between Chicago’s police union and City Hall over the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for city employees, many Chicago police officers are choosing to comply rather than go on a no-pay status, Police Department officials said Tuesday.

As of Tuesday afternoon, 21 officers were on no-pay status because they refused to report their vaccine status in a city portal, police Superintendent David Brown said at a news conference.

In this Sunday, Aug. 8, 2021, file photo, Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown speaks during a news conference at police headquarters.
In this Sunday, Aug. 8, 2021, file photo, Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown speaks during a news conference at police headquarters. (Vashon Jordan Jr./Chicago Tribune via AP, File)

Department leaders have processed hundreds of officers and employees since Monday, many of whom have decided to comply with the city mandate after getting more information, Brown said.

Of the more than 12,000 department employees, a number that includes sworn officers and civilian employees, almost 68% have entered their information to the portal, Brown said. Of those employees, 82% are vaccinated, he said.

Officers were supposed to report their vaccine status by last Friday, which previously was the deadline for city workers to be fully vaccinated until Mayor Lori Lightfoot agreed to allow those not yet vaccinated the option of twice-weekly testing for COVID-19 for the remainder of the year.

Despite that concession, the local Fraternal Order of Police president, John Catanzara, openly encouraged his members to refuse to comply — until a judge issued a gag order against him Friday.

Employees who have not entered their vaccine information are being called into a counseling meeting where police leaders verify that it’s not an error that they weren’t found in the portal.

Those who still refuse to comply are given a direct order to enter the portal, giving them a third chance to comply with the mandate, Brown said.

“So even though we’ve tried to inform our employees of the vaccine mandate, many are misinformed through various sources they listen to,” Brown said. “And officers should be able to rely on some of their union leadership for accurate information. And many have been misinformed.”

At one point 45 officers were on no-pay status but many changed their mind and decided to comply with the mandate, said Don Terry, a spokesperson for the Police Department.

“This process has been obviously very emotional,” Brown said. “Going into a no-pay status or receiving a direct order is a very difficult conversation to have with employees. We’ve given them the time; we’ve given them the explanation as best we can on the serious nature of violating the vaccination mandate.”

Brown said getting officers either vaccinated or getting tested twice a week is the department’s No. 1priority.

“This is about officer safety,” he said, adding that getting officers in the portal will save the lives of officers, their families, their co-workers and community members who officers have to come in contact with when answering a 911 call.

Brown said the department isn’t rushing through the process and that his leadership expects to process hundreds if not thousands more in the coming weeks.

Brown isn’t worried the process will lead to a shortage in officers, and said besides the 21 officers on no-pay status, everyone else has continued to work and there has been no officer shortage so far. A call that went out for possible help from suburban law-enforcement agencies was merely contingency planning, he said.

The FOP, meanwhile, released a new video Tuesday telling officers they don’t have to agree to participate in what Brown called counseling sessions over the vaccine mandate.

Keeping officers, their families and the community safe from the spread of COVID-19 is important for both personal and professional reasons, Brown said, referencing the four CPD officers who died of COVID-19 last year.

Former local FOP President Dean Angelo Sr. died of COVID-19 complications last week.

Brown also said he had an “anti-vaxxer” cousin and that she, her husband and their daughter contracted COVID-19 and died from the virus last month. He said many people have similar stories where they’ve been personally affected and lost a family member to the virus.

“The virus is the No. 1 killer of police officers,” Brown said. “More than any other reason, officers have been struck by this virus and passed, and died from this virus.”

©2021 Chicago Tribune. Visit chicagotribune.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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