McDermott doesn't want Chicago cops fired for refusing COVID-19 vaccine working in Hammond

Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr., right, speaks Friday in the "Left of Center" podcast studio with Hammond Police Chief William (Andy) Short about Chicago police officers potentially facing termination for refusing to follow a direct order to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

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Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. condemns U.S. Sen Mike Braun, R-Ind., for attempting to bring to Indiana former Chicago police officers who refuse to follow orders

HAMMOND — Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. is a Democrat and unreservedly proud of the Hammond Police Department, as well as an unabashed supporter of law enforcement in general.

But the five-term leader of Lake County's most populous city has no interest in hiring cops who willfully ignore lawful, direct orders, or deliberately undermine the chain-of-command.

On Friday, McDermott blasted U.S. Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., for offering to help Chicago police officers who lose their jobs for refusing to comply with the city's employee COVID-19 vaccination mandate find new positions at Indiana law enforcement agencies.

"This mayor is not interested in the head cases from Chicago coming to the Hammond Police Department," McDermott said on his "Left of Center" podcast. "(Officers) willing to throw their career away over a political issue? I just don't want that."

"The number one killer of police officers across the country right now is COVID-19."

Braun garnered national attention this week after he said the 4,500 Chicago cops potentially at risk of losing their jobs for disobeying Mayor Lori Lightfoot's directive to get the COVID-19 vaccine should come to Indiana where local police agencies "will welcome you with the respect you deserve," instead of subjecting them to "government overreach."

McDermott admitted he is no fan of Lightfoot. He said her political career is "toast," said "she's not going to get reelected," and noted "she's hated in Chicago." He also said he's glad there's no employee vaccine mandate for the city of Hammond or the state of Indiana.

But McDermott noted there is a vaccine requirement for Chicago city employees and he said police are not outside the law.

"She's dead right on this issue. She's 100% right on the (Chicago Fraternal Order of Police) issue and the vaccination issue because of this: the Chicago residents voted her mayor," McDermott said.

"By voting her mayor, they placed her in charge of the police department, her and the police chief, and the police commission in Chicago. And if we don't have the chain of command working, if we're like, 'No mayor, I'm not going to listen to you anymore,' it's like anarchy." 

Join Cpl. Jerry Patrick, as he patrols the hallways of Lake Central and Kahler Middle School.

Hammond Police Chief William (Andy) Short agreed with McDermott. He said if police are seen disrespecting the law it makes it immeasurably more difficult for officers to attempt to enforce the law and expect to receive respect from city residents.

"I'm vaccinated, and I hope each and every one of our officers get vaccinated," Short said. "Those that haven't gotten vaccinated yet, my question is what are you waiting for guys? Please get vaccinated."

McDermott, who is running for the 2022 Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate, said being a police officer is a great job. It pays well, offers good benefits including a pension, and most officers retire after 20 years on the streets.

"If you're willing to throw all that away over a shot, during a pandemic; if you're that rigid, I don't really want you in the Hammond Police Department, I'll be honest with you. Because I imagine you're going to be a pain in my ass a couple years down the road also and you're going to be a pain in the chief's ass," he said.

"You can't be a police officer and not take orders from the mayor."

McDermott said if he was Lightfoot he would begin by firing the highest-ranking Chicago police officer who refuses to comply with the COVID-19 vaccine mandate in the hope that rank-and-file officers would decide to change course before he gets to them.

But, if they don't, he said he'd have no qualms telling them: "You're fired. Leave your (stuff) here and get the (heck) out of my office."

"I love police officers. I do. They're the good guys," McDermott said. "But you have to listen to orders. That's part of the gig. If you stop listening to orders, what are you going to do? Everybody gets to negotiate with different bosses? It doesn't work that way."

This article originally ran on nwitimes.com.