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Column: Fire the cops who won’t comply with Chicago’s vaccine mandate

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I have a foolproof solution to Chicago’s problem with cops who refuse to comply with the city’s vaccine mandate: Fire ’em.

Fixed! Next problem, please.

Oh, sorry, you want a little more explanation? Well, since I have a whole column to fill, I’ll abide.

The beef between the city and a small-but-noisy part of its police force — and don’t believe the hype, we are talking about a small number of officers — revolves around Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s insistence that all city workers either get vaccinated or get tested for COVID-19 twice a week.

The mandate — in a country that has lost more than 700,000 souls to COVID-19 — is several steps beyond reasonable. If you’re vaccinated, you’re all good. If you don’t want to get vaccinated, you get tested twice a week. It protects city employees, their families and the people they encounter while doing their jobs.

It’s not onerous, and it’s sure as heck not complicated.

But Americans’ favorite pastime these days is making non-onerous things seem onerous and complicating the uncomplicated. So the police union hollers “TYRANNY!” because there’s no way the city can order a police officer to do something. Right?

Well, there are more than 50 “Rules of Conduct” that Chicago police officers already have to follow. Those rules mandate that officers cannot be intoxicated “on or off duty” or hold a “cigarette, cigar, or pipe in mouth while in uniform and in official contact with the public.” They must “wear the uniform as prescribed” and “actually reside within the corporate boundaries of the City of Chicago.”

So the city restricts tobacco use, tells officers how much alcohol they’re allowed to put in their bodies and when, and forces officers to wear uniforms a certain way while requiring them to live in the city.

But asking them to get a safe, effective vaccine that protects them and the people they’re around or get an easy nasal swab twice a week? That’s too much? I mean, if I was going to gripe about anything it would be the uniforms. Those things look itchy.

Getting back to the original point, there’s no reason to make any of this complicated. If there’s a cop who can’t grasp the importance of either being vaccinated or routinely tested for COVID-19, I don’t think Chicago needs that person to be a cop anymore.

I understand the allure of taking a righteous stand on this issue and having a small subset of the population view you as a modern-day John Wayne, fighting off the coronavirus and defending personal liberty with one fist and a six-shooter. But I hope those people understand why I think Chicago’s police force might be better off without them.

We need officers wholly invested in serving and protecting the people of the city of Chicago. We don’t need officers willing to risk other people’s lives to cosplay some fictionalized hero or become a Fox News talking point.

The good news is most of the city’s police officers are the invested ones.

Police Superintendent David Brown said Tuesday that a majority of the force, sworn officers and civilians, is complying with the city’s vaccine mandate. Nearly 70% have already reported their vaccination status, and of those, more than 80% are vaccinated.

Despite threats of massive staffing issues from the union — THOUSANDS WILL WALK! — Brown said so far there were only 21 protesting officers on no-pay status. More will come, but here’s the thing with this vaccine mandate: People talk a good game right up to the point where they’re going to be out of a job. Then the vast majority comply, because at the end of the day, it’s really not that big a deal and they don’t care about it as much as they claim. They just like making noise when they can do it consequence-free.

Most officers, in the end, will comply, particularly if they start seeing some of their more recalcitrant colleagues handed walking papers.

And those officers who stubbornly stick to their proverbial guns? Fire ‘em. Consider it an easy way to weed out people who shouldn’t be on the force in the first place.

A vaccine mandate, in the wake of all we’ve been through the past year and a half, is effectively an intelligence test. If you don’t pass, we don’t want you.

On Tuesday, Brown said this of his officers: “We often are in people’s homes and businesses. And without that vaccination or testing, we risk community harm. Harm to our peers, to our officers and their families. … It would go against our oath to take this virus into their homes.”

He continued: “We’re sworn to protect people. I, as superintendent, am committed to doing everything I can to protect our cops and our community.”

Good. Excellent, in fact.

I appreciate, sincerely, the work police officers do and the daily risks they take to keep Chicagoans safe. I want to see them safe, and I want them to be respected.

But there are clearly people on the force who put themselves first, who don’t listen to reason and who lack the wisdom to see what an easy and obvious choice this should be. That’s fine. That’s a decision they have every right to make.

So let them make it, show them the door and we can all move on. The police department and the city of Chicago will be better for it in the long run.


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