Charles Rex Arbogast / AP
For hundreds of public employees in Washington state – where a new vaccination mandate for state employees went into effect this week – Monday was their last day on the job. This includes a Washington State patrol sergeant who told KUOW that he made an appointment to hand over his patrol car and equipment.
In Los Angeles County, Sheriff Alex Villanueva announced earlier this month that he would not fulfill the county mandate for his department’s 18,000 employees, warning that the country’s most populous county could lose. ” 5, 10% of my workforce overnight “.
And in Chicago, the clash between police and city officials over the city’s vaccination mandate became so controversial that a judge ordered the president of the local union to stop making public statements after the lawyer de la ville accused him of “municipal sedition and treason”.
As vaccination warrants for public employees begin to take effect across the country, police officers and the unions representing them are fighting, frustrating officials who say their goal is to minimize deaths as the COVID pandemic -19 extends.
“More police officers die from COVID than they do from other causes of death, so it makes no sense not to try to protect you and the colleagues you work with,” Dr Anthony Fauci, the the country’s most infectious responsible for the disease, said in an interview with Fox News on Sunday.
More than 230 police officers in the United States have died from COVID-19 so far in 2021, more than quadruple the number of gunshot deaths, according to Officer Down Memorial Page, a group that tracks deaths of police officers on duty. Last year, the coronavirus killed nearly 250 officers nationwide, including four in Chicago.
“I want to make sure that our officers who literally work their tails every day, risking their lives and limbs, are absolutely able to benefit from this life-saving vaccine,” Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said at a press conference Monday. .
As of Monday, 79% of all city workers had complied with Lightfoot’s order to submit their vaccination status, officials said. But about a third of Chicago Police Department employees – more than 4,500 in total, including sworn officers and civilian employees – refused.
The City’s Fraternal Order of Police, led by its president John Catanzara, had repeatedly urged officers not to comply with the city’s requirement that all city employees share their vaccination status before the deadline last Friday at midnight. This led to his warning by a judge on Friday.
Employees who do not declare their status, including police officers, will not be paid, the mayor said on Monday. According to WBEZ, an internal memo sent over the weekend warned department employees that if they did not comply with the policy, they could be fired.
More than 20 states have some form of vaccination mandate in place for state employees, and many large municipalities have them in place. also.
Vaccination warrants are effective in getting people vaccinated, which in turn reduces serious illness and death from COVID-19. Big companies like United Airlines and Tyson Foods have announced mandates and have since reported that the vast majority of their employees are vaccinated. In Washington, Governor Jay Inslee said last week that more than 90% of state employees had been vaccinated.
But police have always resisted the vaccine at higher rates than the general public. Combined with rising crime levels – violent crime increased by around 5% overall in 2020, with murders rising by almost 30% – police unions began to fear enforcement strict mandates don’t translate into a staff shortage.
In Seattle, detectives and other non-patrolling agents were dispatched to emergency calls last week, according to local television station KOMO.
In Massachusetts, where Governor Charlie Baker’s vaccination mandate went into effect on Monday, at least 150 state police have resigned or submitted documents to do so, according to the union, although the state has not further confirmed these figures. About 85% of the state’s police are vaccinated, but union officials say the resignations worsen an already difficult staffing situation.
“Critical understaffing is the biggest threat to public safety today,” Michael Cherven, president of the State Police Association of Massachusetts, said at a press conference Monday. “We urgently need courageous leadership that puts public safety above politics.
Across the country, opponents have taken legal action in hopes of blocking vaccination warrants, but there is a long history that they have managed to take a legal step forward.
Many lawsuits have already been dismissed by judges, including the Supreme Court denying emergency appeals from New York teachers and college students in Indiana.