CHICAGO — A labor arbitrator has upheld the city of Chicago’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for police officers, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Wednesday, saying she hopes it is a call to action for those who aren't yet vaccinated.

The Fraternal Order of Police had vigorously fought the city’s rules, which resulted in lawsuits, and urged members not to comply.[1][2] The union wanted the matter heard before an arbitrator.

Lightfoot announced last August that city employees would have to get vaccinated.[3] Most departments complied, with the vast majority of city employees getting vaccinated and reporting their status to the city. The majority of Chicago Police officers have also been vaccinated, however, Chicago Police Department employees as a whole have lagged behind other city departments.

The arbitrator's ruling said officers must get their first dose of the shot by March 13 and the second dose a month later.

The police union didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, but Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #7 President John Catanzara posted a YouTube video late Wednesday acknowledging officers would be forced to get the vaccine.[4] Catanzara has said he plans to run for mayor of Chicago in 2023.

The city already faces a troubling decline in enrollment of new recruits combined with an aging rank and file.[5] With many officers on the brink of retirement, some are beginning to go further and call the situation a crisis, particularly given the increasing violent crime in the city.[6]

Still, Arbitrator George Roumell said Chicago officials did not violate collective bargaining agreements with the union in rolling out the vaccination policy, according to The Chicago Tribune.[7]

“The medical evidence supports the City and Department’s vaccine mandate as a reasonable exercise of contractually recognized management rights,” Roumell wrote in the ruling.

Roumell is the same arbitrator who also upheld the vaccine mandate for firefighters in December.

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Notes & References

  1. Press, Associated. “Chicago Police Union Head Urges Cops to Defy Vaccine Mandate.” Chicago Journal. Chicago Journal, October 14, 2021. ↩︎

  2. Chicago Journal. “Chicago Drops Police Union Lawsuit over Vaccine Mandate.” Chicago Journal. Chicago Journal, December 2, 2021. ↩︎

  3. Press, Associated. “Chicago to Require COVID-19 Vaccine for City Workers.” Chicago Journal. Chicago Journal, August 25, 2021. ↩︎

  4. ↩︎

  5. Justinlaurence. “Chicago Is Scouring the Country for Police Recruits as City Council Demands More Officers across City.” Block Club Chicago. Block Club Chicago, October 5, 2021. ↩︎

  6. Kozlov, Dana. “Burnout and Low Turnout of Applicants Leaving CPD with Officer Shortage; 'People Don't Want to Be the Police'.” CBS Chicago. CBS Chicago, October 11, 2021. ↩︎

  7. Pratt, Gregory, John Byrne, and Alice Yin. “Covid-19 Vaccine Mandate Upheld for Chicago Police; FOP President Calls on Officers to 'Hold the Line' but Concedes They're Now 'Forced' to Get Shots.” Chicago Tribune, February 24, 2022. ↩︎