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Judge Bars Chicago Police Union President John Catanzara From Encouraging Officers To Defy City's Vaccine Mandate

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Amid the ongoing standoff between City Hall and the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police over the city's vaccine mandate, a Cook County judge on Friday issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting union president John Catanzara from encouraging police officers to refuse to comply with the city's policy.

The ruling came as Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the FOP escalated their dispute by taking each other to court.

Friday morning, the city filed a complaint against the FOP and Catanzara, for supporting a "work stoppage or strike regarding the vaccine mandate." Both state law and the FOP contract with the city prohibit officers from going on strike.

Hours later, the FOP filed its own lawsuit against the city, Lightfoot, and Chicago Police Supt. David Brown, accusing them of failing to properly negotiate with the union over the vaccine mandate.

At a hearing late Friday afternoon, city attorneys assured a Cook County judge officers who show up to work over the weekend will be able to work and will be paid, but said they could be written up for disciplinary action if they do not comply with the requirement to report their vaccination status by the Friday night deadline.

After lengthy arguments, the judge granted the city's request for a temporary injunction barring Catanzara from making any public comments that encourage members of the FOP to defy the city's COVID-19 vaccine mandate until the next hearing on the city's lawsuit on Oct. 25.

Shortly after the ruling, Catanzara posted a video online, nearly testing the judge's line, telling FOP members "I won't be able to speak anymore about the policy," and urging them to "do what's in their hearts and minds."

At the end of his video, he held up a campaign sign saying ""John Catanzara For Mayor 2023" as he proclaimed "enough is enough."

CBS 2 Legal Analyst Irv Miller said a judge will look at the practical effect of what will happen if a large number of officers aren't working because of the vaccine mandate dispute.

"Would that create an irreparable harm to the city of Chicago? And knowing what's going on in the city of Chicago these days, I can't imagine Chicago would say no, it doesn't," he said.

Lightfoot didn't mince words when speaking out about the city's decision to take the FOP to court, calling out Catanzara and his past, while holding her ground on the city's vaccination mandate.

The mayor said Catanzara is going to ruin the careers of officers who choose to follow his lead.

But with lawsuits filed by both the city and the police union, the fate of the city's vaccine mandate is now in the hands of a Cook County judge.

"Follow the directives, follow the chain of command, and the chain of command has been very, very clear. Get vaccinated. Sign up for the portal. If the testing option is what you choose, you have that available to you until the end of the year," Lightfoot said.

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The mayor was firm and clear in her message to CPD officers on Friday, in the middle of a continued standoff between her office and the FOP, particularly Catanzara.

"He's telling them, 'ignore your supervisors, because I say so,'" Lightfoot said.

For days, Catanzara has very publicly instructed officers to ignore the city's mandate, fill out an exemption form, and report to work to be turned away for failing to meet the city's requirement to get vaccinated or opt for weekly testing.

"This notion that individual officers get to be insubordinate, as they choose, and pick and choose? We're not having that. And if that's the police department they want to be in, they should walk to another police department, because that is not going to happen in the city of Chicago," Lightfoot said.

That's the sentiment behind the lawsuit filed by the city against the FOP and Catanzara, saying his repeated calls for officers to ignore the mandate and risk being placed on no pay status amounts to an illegal strike.

"His directive to violate the City's Vaccination Policy, if followed by his membership, would result in an unlawful and dangerous work stoppage that would endanger the entire City as well as his own membership," the city's lawsuit states.

However, Catanzara has repeatedly said he's not calling for a strike or other work stoppage.

"The Union never called for a strike or a job action. We told our officers to continue to go to work. It was the city that was threatening to lock out our officers for not complying with an improper directive," Catanzara said in a video posted to social media on Friday.

Catanzara has said he's speaking on behalf of thousands of officers, who he claims won't be on the streets, instead choosing to enter a no-pay status.

But now, it's all up to a judge to decide, with the FOP filing its own complaint in court FOP, seeking to dismiss the suit filed by the city, and to force the city to engage in arbitration over the vaccine mandate, claiming the city is illegally trying to impose new employment conditions without collective bargaining.

The stare-down between the mayor and the FOP is fueling concerns that Chicagoans' safety might be put at risk.

By 11:59 p.m. Friday, all city employees – including CPD officers – are required to enter their vaccination status into an online portal. If unvaccinated, they must agree to get a COVID twice a week through Dec. 31, the deadline for all city workers to be fully vaccinated.

Any city employees who don't provide their vaccination status by the Friday night deadline could be placed on "no pay" status.

Lightfoot has said she's not concerned officers won't show up for work, but adds there is a back-up plan she's keeping under wraps.

"We fully expect that members will show up, and unless they're told to go home, they need to report for duty. Now, if they don't show up, that's a whole different issue," she said on Thursday.

Chicago Police First Deputy Supt. Eric Carter said officers are expected to comply with the deadline, and if they don't, they could be subject to disciplinary action, including possible "separation."

Lightfoot said any officers who are scheduled to work over the weekend must show up for their shifts, and must comply with the vaccine reporting deadline, or will be moved to "no pay" status. However, she said that won't happen right away, as the city will need more time to contact people who haven't reported their vaccination status and confirm they aren't complying with the rules.

Meantime, it was revealed in court on Friday that Catanzara has been vaccinated, but he refuses to officially inform the city of his vaccination status.

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