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Vaccine mandates could lead to police and firefighter exoduses in urban areas

Written by on October 13, 2021

In some cities across the country, a considerable percentage of police and fire department employees face being fired or sent home without pay for refusing to cooperate with their city’s fast-approaching COVID-19 vaccine deadline.

In Los Angeles, 895 city fire personnel, a majority firefighters, have signed an intent to sue the city of Los Angeles if they are terminated without due process for not being vaccinated by the Oct. 19 deadline. 

The growing list of fire fighters threaten to sue now represents about a quarter of the department of 3,700 employees. 

Kevin McBride, the attorney representing the firefighters, tells Fox News that the city is attempting to potentially terminate the workers without full due process, which should include a hearing. McBride says some firefighters claim that their chiefs are trying to intimidate them into getting vaccinated.  

“Our intent to sue is because of the intentional infliction of emotional distress by the fire chiefs against the firefighters. The fire chiefs know each employee is due full due process as a public employee in California,” McBride said. 

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A spokesperson for Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti did not respond to the allegations, telling Fox News that the mayor generally does not comment on pending litigation. The mayor’s office did confirm that every city employee is required to provide their vaccine status and that the deadline to do so has passed. “Anyone who hasn’t given us that information must do it now,” Garcetti wrote in a statement.

Garcetti also wrote that his policy does allow for medical and religious exemptions but will not tolerate abuse of the exemptions. “To anyone thinking about filing a disingenuous exemption request, I strongly urge that you reconsider. Every request will be carefully vetted,” Garcetti wrote.

The Los Angeles Police Department also faces a substantial number of personnel that might not be vaccinated by the mid-October deadline. In the city’s most recent survey, dated Sept. 14, roughly 50% of LAPD’s 12,000 employees indicated they had not yet been vaccinated and 2,600 indicated they would file for religious exemption.

A Los Angeles police source tells Fox News that they have not been vaccinated and, “Pressure is mounting because those of us that were undeclared have been getting phone calls from our captains of our divisions, saying, ‘Hey, you realize you’ve got this deadline coming up, do you want to tell me now?’”

The police source says they lack trust in the mayor and the police department management and also question whether they’re going to be mandated to get more booster shots in the future.

“I don’t distrust the vaccine. I’ve had other vaccines. My family has been vaccinated,” the source said. “For me, I’ve done a personal risk assessment. I’m healthy. I’m fit. The more they push me to do it, the less obliged I am to do it.”

In Seattle, city employees are required to be vaccinated by Oct. 18. The mayor’s office tells Fox News that 20% — about 200 — of Seattle’s 1,075 active police officers have not yet submitted their vaccine status.

Seattle Police Public Affairs Sergeant Randy Huserik tells Fox News that it would be “devastating” to the city if hundreds of officers were suddenly fired.

“We’re not going to know anything until we wake up on the 19th and see what was turned in,” Huserik said.

Huserik says as a result, an emergency 911 contingency plan is now in place in case of a mass officer exodus.

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An anonymous Seattle police officer told Fox 13 Seattle, “Losing even 50 to 75 officers in one day, the response times for the city will go up drastically.”

The officer said he has applied for a religious exemption but is not sure he will be approved. “I will not get the vaccine. I will continue working until the day that they fire me and that’s about all I can do,” the police source told Fox 13.

A spokesperson for Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan tells Fox News that the mayor is confident that police officers will “do the right thing” and submit their vaccination status in the final days.

“The mayor trusts that SPD officers understand the critical importance of vaccinations to protect themselves, their colleagues, and the communities they serve,” Durkan’s spokesperson wrote. 

This comes as the Downtown Seattle Association, which includes members like Amazon, wrote a strongly worded letter on Oct. 7 urging Seattle city officials to invest more in public safety, writing “certain areas — in the heart of the retail and arts and cultural core — have been taken over for shoplifting and drug-trafficking operations. Retail theft is rampant and visible organized fencing operations are costing retailers millions in stolen goods and additional expenses for increased security.” 

In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio says he is not ruling out a vaccine mandate for the country’s largest police force of 36,000 officers.

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NYPD commissioner Dermot Shea says 68% of NYPD’s workforce is vaccinated and he would support mandating all of his officers to get the shot. “I would be supportive of a vaccine mandate. I’ve said that from day one, I think that the science to help the emergency situation that we’re in, it makes sense,” Shea said.

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