A Cook County, IL, judge on Monday effectively sent city attorneys and the Chicago Police Department’s labor unions back to the bargaining table to resolve a dispute over the city’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate — but also told the city it can’t require officers to get vaccinated by the end of the year.

The case “presents two competing public interests, but one interest need not be scuttled in favor of another,” Judge Raymond Mitchell wrote in his ruling. “The City’s public health objective and the police union’s desire to pursue their grievances are not wholly irreconcilable,” the Sun-Times reports.

Mitchell, who heard arguments in the case last week by attorneys for the Fraternal Order of Police and the city, left intact the requirement that Chicago Police Department officers report their vaccine status and the city’s current policy requiring multiple weekly tests for unvaccinated officers. But Mitchell’s order does stay the Dec. 31 deadline for all officers to be vaccinated, urging the city and union to pursue a labor arbitration.

“The reporting obligation itself is a minimal intrusion,” Mitchell wrote, “particularly considering that police officers already are obligated to provide medical information to their employer.”

The order would not appear to alter the status of officers who have so far refused to divulge their vaccination status, in violation of an Oct. 15 deadline imposed by the department. According to statements made in court, there are 27 officers who have been placed in “non-disciplinary, no-pay status” for refusing to share their vaccination status. At a press conference last week, CPD Supt. David Brown had said 70% of the force had informed the department of their vaccination status using a city data portal, and 80% of those officers reported they had been vaccinated.

The FOP wants officers put on no-pay status to return to work while the union and city negotiate the issue at the bargaining table, WGN reports

All city employees were required to report vaccination status on a city portal by October 15. Unvaccinated workers have until December 31 to get vaccinated and must undergo weekly COVID testing until then.

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