EXCLUSIVE: Illinois police officers who may soon be out of a job due to COVID-19 vaccine mandates — specifically those in Chicago — can look to their eastern neighbor state of Indiana for less stringent job opportunities in law enforcement, according to Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., who says the officers "deserve respect."
In a statement to Fox News, Braun said, "Our police do the hardest job in the world, and they deserve respect — not losing their pay or being fired for refusing to comply with a ridiculous vaccine mandate."
Braun is welcoming officers to the state with arms wide open, urging the "3,000 Chicago cops defying this government overreach" to come to Indiana.
"Indiana’s police departments are hiring now and will welcome you with the respect you deserve," Braun told Fox News.
"My office stands ready to help connect Chicago police officers to an Indiana police department that is hiring now and doesn’t have a vaccine mandate," Braun said. "Welcome to Indiana!"
During an interview with Fox News, Steve Scheckel, chief of police in Munster, Indiana, echoed Braun's sentiment and insisted there is a "brighter future right over the border" for officers who are under scrutiny for their views on vaccine mandates, noting that his department has already hired one individual from Chicago.
"We've been seeing more and more Chicago police officers when we do an emergency hire, which is basically a lateral transfer. They already have the academy" Scheckel said, adding that he is "absolutely" open to the idea of working alongside those "looking for a better quality of life for their family" who may have been ousted from their jobs.
Asked about the types of opportunities officers could have if they were to relocate to Munster, Scheckel pointed to education, the cost of living, tax rates and low-crime rates.
"Here in northwest Indiana, in Munster, we have one of the top rated school systems in the state," Scheckel said. "[Officers] can send their kids to public school. It's a low-crime community. Even though we're 30 minutes from Chicago, we're rated one of the 10 safest cities in the state of Indiana. So, it's really just a step across the state line to a better life for the officer."
"From the governor on down, in Indiana, we support our law enforcement," said Scheckel, who has been with the department for more than 30 years, serving as police chief for the last 13. "I think there's a clear contrast between what's going on in the city of Chicago right now and what's happening in the state of Indiana."
Highlighting the "trying and stressful" times for first responders over the last couple of years, Scheckel said the "mandates that really aren't rooted in science" appear to be "politically motivated" and suggested they are the "straw that broke the camel's back."
Other police departments in Indiana that do not have a vaccine mandate in place, according to Braun's team, include Schererville Police Department and Merrillville Police Department, as well as the Lake County Sheriff's Office.
Chicago police officials made it clear last week that officers who refused to comply with the city’s mandate risk being disciplined or fired. As of Monday, just under 65% of Chicago Police Department personnel reported their vaccination status through the city’s online portal, according to FOX 32 Chicago.
Fox News' David Aaro contributed to this report.