Clashes intensify between city officials, police over vaccination issues
By Eduardo Medina
In many cities across the country, there is friction between governments and law enforcement unions over requirements that officers get vaccinated against the coronavirus or prove their vaccination status, leading to contentious public clashes.
Even though the shots have proved to be largely effective in preventing severe disease and death, many police officers and their unions have pushed back, threatening resignations and lawsuits.
John Catanzara, president of the Fraternal Order of Police in Chicago, has urged police officers there to ignore requirements by the mayor, Lori Lightfoot, that city employees report their vaccination status. Employees who are not vaccinated will be subject to twice-weekly testing, but vaccinations are not mandatory.
In Baltimore, a police union leader told officers not to disclose their vaccination status to city officials amid negotiations over a mandate scheduled to take effect there next week, The Baltimore Sun and other local news outlets reported.
City leaders in San Jose, California, decided just as a vaccine mandate was taking effect at the end of last month to allow unvaccinated officers to remain employed through the end of the year, with incremental discipline and testing requirements.
Officials in Ann Arbor, Michigan, reiterated their commitment this past week to a vaccine mandate for city employees, despite pushback from the police union there.
And in Seattle, a police union has expressed fears that the city’s shortage of officers will worsen because of vaccine mandates, The Associated Press reported.
More than 460 U.S. law enforcement officers have died from COVID infections, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page, making the coronavirus by far the most common cause of duty-related deaths in 2020 and 2021. More than four times as many officers have died from COVID-19 as from gunfire in that period.
Some elected officials say police officers have a higher responsibility to get vaccinated because they regularly interact with the public and could unknowingly spread the virus.
Lightfoot said in a statement last week that she “cannot and will not stand idly by while the rhetoric of conspiracy theorists threatens the health and safety of Chicago’s residents and first responders.”