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City Hall, Police Union Return To Court As Fight Over Vaccine Mandate Drags On

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The vaccine mandate showdown between the city of Chicago and the Fraternal Order of Police returns to court, as the police union is asking a Cook County judge hearing the city's lawsuit against FOP to recuse herself from the case.

Meantime, in its own lawsuit against the city, the police union is seeking a temporary restraining order blocking the vaccine mandate and forcing the city to enter arbitration.

Nothing came of that request Wednesday morning, Judge Sophia Hall, who was assigned the FOP's lawsuit, said the presiding judge of the Chancery Division must first rule on the city's request to transfer that case to Judge Cecilia Horan, who was assigned the city's lawsuit against the FOP.

Horan last week ordered Chicago FOP President John Catanzara to stop encouraging officers to defy the city's vaccine mandate. The police union has since asked that judge to recuse herself from the case, citing a past professional relationship with Mayor Lori Lightfoot. A hearing on that request is set for Wednesday afternoon.

In a statement, Mayor Lori Lightfoot has denied there is any conflict of interest in the case being assigned to Judge Horan:

"Under the judicial code of ethics, the court has the ability to assess and determine actual conflicts of interests. There are none here. This is another dog whistle by a person who has repeatedly revealed himself to be a racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, homophobic, hateful human being. Let's move on."

The union's bid to have Horan remove herself from the case comes as CPD leadership has had hundreds of meetings with officers who missed last Friday's deadline to report their vaccination status to the city. There are as many as 1,000 more such meetings to go.

The department is meeting with officers who missed the deadline to make sure their failure to report is an intentional choice; and give them one last chance to comply before they are placed on no pay status, and brought up on disciplinary charges.

As of Tuesday night, a total of 21 officers have been sent home without pay for continuing to defy the mandate.

Overall, approximately 67% of officers and civilian employees at CPD have entered their vaccine status into an online portal, with 82% of those who have done so confirming they are fully vaccinated.

Those who are unvaccinated can be tested for COVID-19 twice a week through the end of the year, but must be fully vaccinated after Dec. 31.

That still leaves thousands of officers and civilian employees who have yet to report their vaccination status, putting them at risk of being sent home without pay and being disciplined by the city.

The police union continues to argue in court that the vaccine mandate is illegal and violates their contract with the city.


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