U.S. cities, police unions clash as vaccine mandates take effect
Police departments around the U.S. that are requiring officers to get vaccinated against COVID-19 are running into pockets of resistance that some fear could leave law enforcement short-handed and undermine public safety.
Police unions and officers are pushing back by filing lawsuits to block the mandates. In Chicago, the head of the police union called on members to defy the city’s Friday deadline for reporting their COVID-19 vaccination status.
Seattle’s police department sent detectives and nonpatrol officers to emergency calls this week because of a shortage of patrol officers that union leaders fear will become worse because of vaccine mandates.
The standoffs are playing out at a time when many police departments already are dealing with surging homicide rates and staff shortages unrelated to the vaccine. Cities and police leaders are now weighing the risk of losing more officers to resignations, firings or suspensions over their refusal to get vaccinated.
Chicago’s mayor on Friday filed a complaint in court against the leader of the local Fraternal Order of Police, accusing him of “engaging in, supporting and encouraging work stoppage or strike” by saying the city’s more than 12,000 uniformed officers should ignore the order to report their vaccination status.
On Thursday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said officers would not be sent home if they showed up to work Friday and refused to provide their information. Instead, she said, they would be put on unpaid leave after the weekend, because confirming compliance would take a few days.
Refusing to provide the information, Lightfoot said, would constitute insubordination.