Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva is standing up for officers under his command, stating that he will not enforce the county’s vaccine mandate on his agency. The news comes following reports that thousands of police officers in Los Angeles are refusing the vaccine.
In August, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors ratified an executive order requiring every county employee, regardless of department, to be fully vaccinated with exemptions provided only for medical and religious reasons. Villanueva, who oversees the largest sheriff’s department in the United States with around 18,000 employees, said that he has no plans to carry out the mandate, which also covers the Sheriff’s Department.
Making his comments in a Facebook Live event on Wednesday, Villanueva said that he did not want to put his agency in a situation where it would have to terminate a significant percentage of his employees for refusing to take the vaccine. The department is already facing purported budgetary constraints and could not handle the strain, he said.
“No, I’m not forcing anyone,” said the sheriff in response to a question about whether he would force police deputies to be vaccinated, per CBS LA.
“The issue has become so politicized. There are entire groups of employees that are willing to be fired and laid off for having to get vaccinated. So, I don’t want to be in a position to lose five or 10 per cent of my workforce overnight over a vaccine mandate, while at the same time, I’m barebones with the funding effort. This is like the worst of two worlds right here. So we have to pick and choose.”
Villanueva’s remarks came a day after the city of Los Angeles approved a strict vaccine mandate that requires anyone entering bars, restaurants, nail salons, gyms, and sports venues to be fully vaccinated.
According to public health officials, 78 per cent of the county’s roughly 10 million residents have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and 69 per cent are fully vaccinated. Health officials said the county has reported 14 days a day, on average, but hospitalizations figures have plunged by around 50 per cent since late August, ABC7 News reported. The mandate, which is one of the strictest in the United States, is set to come into effect after Nov. 6.
A Los Angeles Times report last week found that vaccination rates among law enforcement and fire department employees in the county were well behind compared to most residents. While all Los Angeles city employees are required to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 19, city records in September showed that close to 11 per cent of the city’s over 57,400 city employees expressed their intent to seek a religious or medical exemption from the requirement, which includes close to 3,000 LAPD employees.