Chicago vaccine mandate: Police union boss no longer banned from speaking out against policy, judge rules

John Catanzara said Monday there'd be 'hundreds' of officers defying the order

Chicago police union head John Catanzara is no longer prohibited from publicly encouraging his members to disobey the city’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate, which expired Monday after a judge refused to extend it.

Cook County Judge Cecilia Horan denied city attorneys’ request for the order to be extended and expanded in a written ruling, saying the situation since the first injunction had "materially changed."

City attorneys wanted the order extended to include other union leaders in addition to Fraternal Order of Police president, Catanzara, accusing him of continuing to speak out or having other union officials do so in his place.

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Catanzara has directed members to defy the city’s requirement and been outspoken in recent days on social media and in person. He spoke Monday to dozens of protesters gathered outside Chicago’s City Hall and during a City Council meeting where he vowed there'd be "hundreds" of officers defying the order.

This is not the way a government is supposed to run. It is not a queen on that throne. It is a mayor.

— John Catanzara, Chicago Fraternal Order of Police president 

He asked aldermen to back the union and support a proposal requiring council approval for policies that govern disciplining city employees, saying those who didn't would see challengers in the 2023 municipal election.

But in her ruling Horan said that the situation had changed, since the Oct. 15 deadline to submit vaccination had passed and "the threatened work stoppage has not come to pass."

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Chicago police leaders, who call the vaccine mandate a matter of protecting officers and the public, have said less than two dozen officers haven't complied with the order to the point of risking their employment. The city's order allows for a temporary window of regular COVID-19 testing at the employee’s own expense until vaccines can be administered.

Police Superintendent David Brown said Monday that 23 department employees were placed on "no-pay status" for failing to comply with the order. About 70% of department employees have reported their vaccination status, of which 80% are fully vaccinated.

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"We want to stay focused on protecting the people of Chicago. That includes the police officers of this department," Brown said. "So we really see this as a life-saving effort for police officers ... Part of that means following through on the vaccine mandate."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.