Chicago’s Vaccine Mandate Is a Clear and Present Danger to Public Safety

AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

On October 23, an ordinance was introduced to the Chicago City Council that would repeal Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s authoritarian COVID-19 vaccine mandate – to which many members of the Chicago Police Department (CPD) have been outspoken opponents.

Lightfoot’s order seems to be based on the far-fetched notion of enhanced public safety. In reality, though, the opposite scenario is likely to unfold.

Regardless of motivations, the mandate creates a host of disturbing implications.

The overarching area of concern – as is the case with President Biden’s recent vaccine mandate – is the enormous governmental overreach in gross violation of the individual freedoms our nation was founded upon.

Robert Tebbens, a local fire captain who has joined the ranks of more than 100 city employees filing lawsuits in response, effectively explains a common theme for the growing resistance in his precinct and elsewhere:

“We have a lot of our members that are vaccinated, but are supporting the unvaccinated based on their right to choose what they do, medically with their own bodies.”

Yes; vaccines can often be effective in combating the spread and severity of COVID-19. I have been vaccinated and will choose to receive a booster shot when eligible. But that is my choice to make, not the mayor’s.

Yet, while individual freedoms are vitally important to protect, an adjacent and equally problematic concern is the impact of Lightfoot’s mandate on Chicagoans’ safety. Unfortunately, though ostensibly an advocate for the public’s welfare, Lightfoot appears ambivalent that her orders threaten to sideline nearly a third of CPD’s force if they remain non-compliant.

Although it is true the relationship between CPD and Lightfoot has been fraught with tension, this most recent flare-up has clearly reached another dimension. Our illustrious mayor has sunk to threatening to fire a massive number of veteran city protectors, who only seek to preserve their freedom and privacy from an exogenous authoritarian edict.

And she is doing this in a city where crime – historically already severe in Chicago – has continued to climb with Lightfoot at the helm.

The Chicago Sun-Times recently examined Chicago’s crime rates after a particularly vicious spree of violence over Labor Day weekend. Here are some eye-popping statistics they reference, all numbers coming from the first week of September when the article was written:

-Shooting incidents in Chicago had already surpassed 2019’s total for the entire year with four months to go.

-535 homicides had already been perpetrated, a 53 percent rise from 2019’s totals over the same period.

-In perhaps the saddest statistic, children have died from gun violence at a rate three times higher than last year. Over this summer alone, 16 children (15 and under) were shot and killed.

In response to the Labor Day violence that left 67 people shot including eight children, Lightfoot asserted, “There should be no gang member in Chicago who has a comfortable night’s sleep.”

Let’s take a look at the official numbers from CPD’s CompStat database. As of October 17, there have been 2,899 total shooting incidents, 649 murders, and 9,784 incidents of theft, all of which are significantly higher numbers than 2020. In the six weeks since Labor Day’s violence and the subsequent Sun-Times analysis, 114 additional people have been murdered.

Some of this violence is occurring in areas of the city already notorious for gang warfare. But, much of it is occurring in what have previously been some of the safest areas of the city.

In Police District 18 (where I happen to reside), a large number of Old Town residents participated in an anti-crime protest in response to this surge in shootings and robberies that has made the neighborhood increasingly unsafe.

My personal experience with crime has been, at the risk of sounding hyperbolic, unbelievable.

Over the past four months, I have:

-Watched my friend have her phone and handbag swiped from her in broad daylight at a coffee shop.

-Had my car broken into, and my laptop stolen.

-Listened to what I can only describe as a gun battle (I counted at least 20 shots, fired from two different caliber weapons) occurring less than 30 feet from my bedroom window, which left one dead and two in the hospital. It took more than 25 minutes before I heard the first sirens.

-Been jumped and beaten into unconsciousness by a mob of hoodlums. I will spare too many details, but the incident left me in the trauma unit and with a permanent scar adjacent to my right eye.

All of this simply complements the general anarchy I witness on a near-daily basis, and the anecdotes I hear from family, friends, and acquaintances about their own recent experiences as victims of criminal activity. Some have been mugged, one has even been shot.

Sorry, Lori, but criminals are sleeping soundly under your leadership — or lack thereof.

It might be easy for some to blame the police for this unabated surge in violence. I don’t. CPD, like many other police departments throughout the nation, has been hamstrung. Police are being under-funded, under-staffed, and often severely punished whenever forced to defend themselves.

To add insult to injury, they suffer continuous disrespect from city leaders and the communities they protect, day in and day out.

Who would want to be a police officer these days, in Chicago or elsewhere? Who would want to willingly put their life on the line for a city that does not value or respect them, and continues to trample their individual rights?

A Sun-Times piece from the beginning of this year showed a 15 percent increase in police retirements in Chicago, comparing 2020 to 2019. In New York, retirements nearly doubled. Reasons for this are varied but centered around a common theme of anti-police rhetoric.

The Police Executive Research Forum – a non-profit think tank – illustrates a similar trend. Their findings show a 45 percent increase in retirement and a 20 percent increase in resignations, nationwide. Police hiring is also down 5 percent.

So, Lightfoot’s decision to threaten almost 30 percent of the officers who have chosen to remain on the force despite everything, is only icing on the cake. She may think she has alternatives – though they are dwindling. Suburban police departments – standing in unison with their CPD compatriots – publicly refused to fill any holes left in CPD ranks due to vaccine mandate-related personnel shortages. Using the Illinois National Guard – as Gov. Pritzker has offered – is not an actual long-term solution to an endemic problem.

Crime in Chicago is well past its boiling point, and the city stands at the brink of anarchy should any more officers leave the force. To have a mayor actively endanger the lives of her constituents out of a desire for more unilateral power and control is simply unforgivable. I, for one, have had enough.

Jack McPherrin works in the editorial department at The Heartland Institute.