The head of the Chicago police officers union has called on its members to defy the city’s requirement to report their COVID-19 vaccination status by Friday or be placed on unpaid leave.
In the video posted online Tuesday and first reported by the Chicago Sun-Times, Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara vowed to take Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration to court if it tries to enforce the mandate, which requires city workers to report their vaccine status by the end of the work week. After Friday, unvaccinated workers who won’t submit to semiweekly coronavirus testing will be placed on unpaid leave.
Catanzara suggested that if the city does enforce its requirement and many union members refuse to comply with it, “It’s safe to say that the city of Chicago will have a police force at 50% or less for this weekend coming up.”
In the video, Catanzara instructs officers to file for exemptions to receiving the vaccine but to not enter that information into the city’s vaccine portal.
He said that although he has made clear his vaccine status, “I do not believe the city has the authority to mandate that to anybody, let alone that information about your medical history.”
During a news conference Wednesday, Lightfoot accused Cantazara of spreading false information and dismissed most of his statements as “untrue or patently false.” She said COVID-19 vaccines are proven to be effective and that getting vaccinated would protect city workers and their families.
“What we’re focused on is making sure that we maximize the opportunity to create a very safe workplace,” Lightfoot said. “The data is very clear. It is unfortunate that the FOP leadership has chosen to put out a counter narrative. But the fact of the matter is, if you are not vaccinated, you are playing with your life, the life of your family, the life of your colleagues and members of the public.”
She said the city is prepared to deal with any fallout related to the vaccination requirement.
Violent crime has spiked in the city this year, from expressway shootings to a rise in carjackings. Chicago police reported 629 homicides this year through early October, compared with 605 during the same period last year and 402 in the same time frame in 2019.
First responders around the country have been hit hard by the virus but have been resisting vaccine mandates. More than 460 law enforcement officers have died of COVID-19, including four members of the Chicago Police Department, according the Officer Down Memorial Page. On Tuesday, Dean Angelo, who once held Catanzara’s union position, died of the disease.
Los Angeles police and county sheriff, and Seattle police are among the departments either under vaccine mandates or facing one.
Catanzara has clashed with the mayor over a host of issues. After the city announced the vaccine mandate in August, the union head compared it to something that might happen to Nazi Germany, telling the Sun-Times, “This ain’t Nazi … Germany (saying) ‘Step into the … showers, the pills won’t hurt you.’”
Lightfoot blasted Catanzara for his “offensive outburst” and Catanzara posted a video on the union’s YouTube channel apologizing for his choice of words, saying he was not trying to link vaccinations to what happened during the Holocaust.Miami officials have decided to fire the city’s new police chief six months into his stormy tenure, after he was lambasted by the city commissioners he accused of meddling in the police department and internal affairs investigations.
Miami City Manager Art Noriega said in a statement Monday that he suspended Chief Art Acevedo with the intent to terminate his employment.
“The relationship between the Chief and the organization has become untenable and needed to be resolved promptly,” Noriega said. “Chief Acevedo is not the right fit for this organization.”
Art Acevedo was recruited by Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, who earlier this year hailed him as “America’s best chief.” He was seen as a progressive law enforcer who headed the police department in Houston, and shares ancestry with hundreds of thousands Cubans in Miami as a Havana-born refugee.
But Acevedo began making waves almost immediately after he was sworn in in April by taking over internal affairs and making significant changes to his command staff. He demoted four majors and fired two high-level police officials — a married couple — because they weren’t truthful about a crash involving a city-issued SUV.
At two raucous meetings over the past month, commissioners attacked Acevedo and his leadership, appointing themselves to an investigative committee with subpoena power to examine his appointment.
At one of those meetings, videos were played of Acevedo impersonating Elvis Presley dancing the “Jailhouse Rock” in the iconic white jumpsuit and entering a dance floor of a fundraiser, slapping a woman’s rear with a piece of paper. At another, city commissioner Joe Carollo asked that Acevedo arrest him if he had proof that he and other politicians were interfering with internal affairs investigations.
Miami City Commissioner Manolo Reyes told WSVN-TV that “the only thing we asked for him was to be a chief. Not to be a politician. Not to be a critic for any elected official, the judges and the state attorney. Just to do his job as a chief.”
In an eight-page memo sent by Acevedo to the city manager and mayor before those meetings, Acevedo stated that Carollo and the other commissioners were interfering with internal affairs investigations, and improperly ordering police resources to be deployed against certain establishments “based on nothing more than the whims of commissioners.” He also accused the commissioners of hampering his reform mandate by eliminating positions.