Police Unions Nationwide Are Fighting Back Against COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates

A police union president in Chicago said the city requiring all officers to get vaccinated was similar to Nazi Germany.

Chicago police secure the crime scene on March 14, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. | Getty Images
Chicago police secure the crime scene on March 14, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. | Getty Images

Police unions across the country are pushing back against vaccine mandates by threatening mass resignations and lawsuits, as the country grapples with an increase in COVID-19-related hospitalizations and deaths.

Police officers and their department’s union representatives in New York City, Chicago, Syracuse, Seattle, and other locations have all vocalized their plans to resist any potential or existing vaccine policies within their cities. Politicians and businesses are taking steps to contain COVID-19 as the Delta variant rapidly spreads nationwide, causing hospital ICU beds to fill up with unvaccinated patients.

In Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D) this week announced that all city employees — including police officers — must be fully vaccinated by October 15. Employees can apply for religious or medical exemptions. John Catanzara, the president of the Fraternal Order of Police in Chicago, told local reporters that many officers, lieutenants, and sergeants are against getting the shot and said, “what are they gonna do when four or five thousand coppers say, ‘Screw you. I’m staying home.’”

Cantanzara went on a rant on Wednesday, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, and compared vaccination mandates to Nazi Germany.

“We’re in America, G*d damn it. We don’t want to be forced to do anything. Period. This ain’t Nazi f***ing Germany, [where they say], ‘Step into the f***ing showers. The pills won’t hurt you.’ What the f**k?” Cantanzara said.

His comparison echoes that of other leaders, including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) who faced backlash in May for making a similar comparison about mask mandates for unvaccinated members of Congress.

The Anti-Defamation League condemned Cantanzara’s statement and said, “The comparison of mandatory vaccinations to Nazi Germany and the Holocaust is factually incorrect and deeply offensive to the millions of innocent people killed at the hands of the Nazis.”

Mayor Lightfoot stood by her decision and told MSNBC on Thursday that Cantanzara “really needs some serious psychotherapy.”

“This is just another example of the kind of hatred and stupidity that he spews on a regular basis. But thankfully, I do not believe that he is representative of the vast majority of police officers,” Lightfoot continued.

In Seattle, Mayor Jenny Durkan (D) announced a vaccine mandate for all city employees by October 18, but union representative for PROTEC17, Shaun Van Eyk, said the mandate could lead to a “mass exodus” of police officers. According to local reports, 29 officers have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 20 days — a 30% increase since the start of the pandemic.

New York Police Department’s Police Benevolent Association has also vowed to take legal action against the city if Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) decides to implement a vaccine mandate on all city workers. New York City currently mandates all city school teachers and staff be fully vaccinated. Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said this week that he fully supports a vaccine mandate.

“We lost three members last week, two of them to COVID, and I think it's all unnecessary, to some degree. And I just, everyone I think, all across this country, really, should be embracing these vaccines,” Shea told NY1 on Tuesday.

Only about 47% of the NYPD are fully vaccinated, according to the New York Times, despite officers becoming one of the first groups to be eligible for the shot in January.

A police union in Syracuse, NY is also considering taking action against a vaccine mandate after Mayor Ben Walsh required that all city employees get the shot by September 7 or otherwise opt for regular COVID-19 testing.

The mandates for police come as the Pentagon announced earlier this week that all U.S. military members will be required to get vaccinated. According to a memorandum issued by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, service members would only be required to get the FDA-approved Pfizer vaccine Other vaccines are optional. Despite some criticism for the Department of Defense’s decision, inoculation requirements for the military stem back to the Revolutionary War. Back then, George Washington mandated his soldiers undergo an old-fashioned form of “vaccination” for smallpox.

As the COVID-19 Delta variant continues to spike in the U.S., health officials and leaders are urging people to get vaccinated and have repeatedly said they are safe and effective at preventing severe illness or death. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 51% of people in the U.S. are fully vaccinated.