With thousands of Chicago police officers at odds with the city’s new COVID-19 vaccine mandates, officials in the neighboring state of Indiana are trying to recruit disgruntled cops, some of whom are being punished for not complying.
As of Oct. 15, all of the Chicago Police Department’s roughly 12,000 officers are required to share their vaccination status, outlets report, and those who aren’t vaccinated must get tested for COVID-19 twice weekly.
“Hey Chicago police officers, we’re hiring!” an Indiana State Police spokesman said in a tweet on Thursday. “No vaccine mandate … lower taxes, great schools, welcoming communities.”
Chicago police officers who don’t follow the new rules can have their pay and their powers suspended, WFLD reported. As of Tuesday, at least 21 officers have faced those consequences, police Superintendent David Brown told the outlet.
Roughly two-thirds of Chicago’s officers have submitted their vaccine status into Chicago’s database, Brown told the station, and 82% of those are vaccinated.
That means around 4,000 officers have not shared their vaccine status — at least not yet.
Chicago’s Fraternal Order of Police has spoken out strongly against the COVID-19 mandates, clashing with city officials on the issue in a very public way, and encouraging officers not to comply, outlets report.
According to NPR, a judge has ordered the local union president — John Catanzara — to stop making statements. The city’s attorney also accused Catanzara of “municipal sedition and treason.”
Earlier this week, Catanzara said Chicagoans should expect “a lot less officers on the street” due to the COVID mandates, WFLD reported.
Some Indiana officials see opportunity in Chicago’s contention, and they offer this promise: no vaccine, no problem.
“Welcome to Indiana,” U.S. Sen. Mike Braun said in a tweet. “My office stands ready to help connect Chicago police officers to an Indiana police department that is hiring now and doesn’t have a vaccine mandate.”
In a statement to Fox News, Braun said Chicago’s police “deserve respect” that they aren’t being shown, and they won’t suffer the same “government overreach” in Indiana.
“Our police do the hardest job in the world, and they deserve respect — not losing their pay or being fired for refusing to comply with a ridiculous vaccine mandate,” he said.
Chicago officials point out that COVID-19 poses a serious risk to police, NPR reported.
According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, which tracks law enforcement fatalities across the U.S., 245 officers died due to COVID-19 in 2020, and 237 have died as a result this year. The number of officers killed by gunfire in 2020 and 2021 is 95, the website says.
“I want to make sure that our officers who are literally working their tails off every single day, risking life and limb, are absolutely able to take advantage of this lifesaving vaccine,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said.
The fight over COVID-19 mandates comes as Chicago endures a particularly violent year in crime. As of late September, there had been 602 murders and 2,688 shootings, McClatchy News previously reported.