News and Analysis

Police Officers Across Nation Fight Vaccine Mandates

Mandates going into effect for city employees in New York, Chicago, Seattle, and San Francisco.
A Chicago Police decal on a Chicago Police vehicle is on display at the 112th Annual Chicago Auto Show at McCormick Place in Chicago, Illinois on February 6, 2020. (Photo By Raymond Boyd/Getty Images)"n
Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

As vaccine mandates go into effect for city employees in New York, Chicago, Seattle, and San Francisco, some police officers are refusing to comply with the mandates, meaning that those cities could be forced to either fire the cops or find a compromise.

New York City announced a vaccine mandate for city workers including police officers on Wednesday. City workers must get the shot by Oct. 29.

“From the beginning of the de Blasio administration’s haphazard vaccine rollout, we have fought to make the vaccine available to every member who chooses it, while also protecting their right to make that personal medical decision in consultation with their own doctor,” Police Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch said.

“Now that the city has moved to unilaterally impose a mandate, we will proceed with legal action to protect our members’ rights,” Lynch said.

Around 69% of NYPD employees were vaccinated as of Wednesday.

In Chicago, the city and the Fraternal Order of Police, the city’s largest police union, have sued each other over the mandate.

City employees in Chicago were required to report their vaccination status to the city on Friday, but more than 3,200 Chicago police officers were refusing to do so as of Monday, according to the police union. Chicago police officials warned last week that officers who refuse to comply with the vaccine mandate may face being disciplined or fired.

Earlier this week, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot lashed out at the union over the mandate, accusing union leadership of promoting misinformation and lying in order to cause an “insurrection.”

“We believe that the FOP leadership is trying to foment an illegal work stoppage or strike,” she said. “We’re not having that. The contract is clear and it has been known for a long time. The police unions are not authorized to strike.”

“What we’ve seen from the Fraternal Order of Police leadership is a lot of misinformation, and frankly flat out lies, in order to induce an insurrection, and we’re not having that. The law is on our side. We feel very confident about it,” the mayor added.

The police union president, John Catanzara, is arguing that the vaccine mandate is illegal because the city did not negotiate the terms of the mandate with the police union. Last week, a judge ordered Catanzara to stop publicly telling officers to defy the mandate.

San Francisco was the first major city to require that all of its employees get vaccinated.

As of Wednesday, 40 San Francisco police officers were on leave because they haven’t received a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the San Francisco Police Officers Association, the city’s largest police union. Those officers were placed on leave on Thursday last week, the day after the city’s vaccine mandate went into effect.

As of Tuesday, 93 officers hadn’t submitted proof of vaccination, including 46 active-duty officers, Mayor London Breed said.

The police union said last week that no religious or medical exemptions had been granted so far. Unvaccinated officers will be suspended without pay on November 1. They will get a hearing before they are officially fired.

In Seattle, around 70 police officers had not submitted proof of vaccination by Sunday, the day before the city’s vaccine mandate took effect. Seattle has lost hundreds of police officers since the George Floyd riots last year and has been dealing with heightened crime since last year.

Chicago and San Francisco are also dealing with increased crime and officer shortages.

“San Francisco is experiencing a shooting and retail theft epidemic and fewer officers will only make things worse,” the San Francisco Police Officers Association said in a statement.

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