CHICAGO (CN) — Cook County Judge Cecilia Horan dealt a blow to the city of Chicago Monday evening in its ongoing fight with Chicago Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 over the city's employee vaccine mandate.
Following a hearing Monday, Horan issued a three-page ruling denying the city's request to extend the restraining order that prevented FOP President John Catanzara from publicly commenting on the mandate. First issued on Oct. 15, the order was set to expire Monday at midnight. Horan also denied the city's request to extend the restraining order to other officials with the FOP, who the city argued said the things Catanzara was legally barred from saying — namely, encouraging Chicago police officers to defy the city's employee vaccine mandate.
Prior to the city and the FOP suing each other on Oct. 14, Catanzara encouraged police officers to disobey the vaccine mandate in several YouTube videos. He went so far as to tell officers to refuse orders from their superior officers to comply with the mandate.
"The new thing seems to be that [the Chicago Police Department] is going to have supervisors give direct orders to enter information in the portal. I am telling you right now, it is an improper order ... refuse that order," Catanzara said in an Oct. 14 YouTube video. After Catanzara was barred from making similar comments by Judge Horan's restraining order, other FOP officials took to saying what he couldn't.
"DO NOT COMPLY at the District or Unit Level on going into the [employee vaccine] portal. Make them give you a Direct Order to go down to 35th Street for a counseling session," FOP First Vice-President Michael Mette said in an email to all police union members on Oct. 19.
It was comments such as these that initially prompted the city to file its suit seeking an injunction against Catanzara and the FOP on Oct. 14, aiming to prevent similar comments. Not 15 minutes after the city filed its lawsuit, Catanzara, the FOP and the other Chicago police unions filed an opposing suit claiming that the vaccine mandate violated the unions' collective bargaining agreement with the city.
In the city's initial hearing on the Oct. 15, one of the city's attorneys, Mike Warner, said that Catanzara's comments encouraging officer insubordination amounted to "civil sedition" that needed to be contained. He further argued that officers refusing to comply with the vaccine mandate constituted an illegal strike. Warner forwarded a similar argument Monday, adding that Catanzara's actions were an indefensible risk to public safety.
"These statements are adding gasoline to the fire," Warner said, adding the court has "heard no good reason" as to why Catanzara and others are directing officers not to comply with the mandate.
Catanzara has harshly criticized the mandate since Mayor Lori Lightfoot's office first announced it in August. He initially compared the mandate to "Nazi fucking Germany," and only apologized for the comparison after intense public backlash.
At present, the mandate only requires that city employees, including police, upload their vaccination status into an online data portal. Those who report not being vaccinated for any reason must submit to twice-weekly Covid-19 testing, and those that refuse to enter their status into the portal risk having their pay revoked. Repeated refusal by police in particular to comply could lead to harsher consequences, including termination.
Catanzara labeled the act of reporting one's vaccination status as an invasion of medical privacy. He said in an Oct. 12 video that up to half the police force would choose to go on no-pay status rather than enter their information in the portal.
"It's safe to say the city of Chicago will have a police force at 50% or less for this weekend coming up," Catanzara said in his Oct. 12 video.