Chicago police leaders limit days off amid vaccine mandate standoff

Some saw the move as preparation for potential staff shortages over noncompliance with the mandate

By Alice Yin and Jeremy Gorner
Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO — Chicago police officials sent officers an announcement Saturday that their days off will be limited, sources said, ahead of a potential showdown between the union and city leaders over Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s vaccination reporting mandate.

The notice issued Saturday morning on behalf of First Deputy Superintendent Eric Carter says that during the next five roll calls, which are supervisor briefings before each shift, the following message will be read: “Until further notice, the use of elective time by sworn CPD members is restricted.”

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (center) walks with police Superintendent David Brown (right).
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (center) walks with police Superintendent David Brown (right). (Vashon Jordan Jr)

The announcement goes on to say elective time, also known as personal time off from work, will require approval from someone with the rank of deputy chief or higher. That means that officers without such permission will have upcoming days off canceled.

Earlier this week, the dispute over Lightfoot’s vaccine reporting mandate came to a boil when the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police and mayor’s office filed dueling lawsuits over the matter. That legal sparring followed FOP Lodge 7 president John Catanzara repeatedly directing his thousands of members to disobey the city’s orders to fill out a form indicating their vaccination status by midnight Friday night.

By the early evening, a Cook County judge had ordered Catanzara to temporarily refrain from further encouraging members to defy the city’s vaccination reporting mandate via social media or other public statements. But the city’s lawsuit alleging that his actions constitute an illegal strike because law enforcement cannot engage in such a work stoppage in Illinois remains pending.

Catanzara, on the other hand, sued the city around the same time to attempt to force arbitration over their vaccination reporting requirement, which orders city employees to report their vaccination status or face potential no pay status. Those who indicate they are unvaccinated must submit to regular COVID-19 testing at their own expense.

Catanzara has said there are enough FOP members willing to follow his direction that should the city place them on no pay status, about 50% of the Chicago police force would not be at work. But neither he nor the city have said how many officers have currently filled out the city portal.

The Chicago police brass’ move Saturday to restrict time off for officers — a move often reserved for historically violent holiday weekends — was seen by some in the department as preparation for potential shortages over mass noncompliance with the mandate.

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McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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