New York City could lose 30% of police force over vaccine mandate

Around 6,500 police employees could be facing unpaid leave for non-compliance with the city's vaccine mandate.

New York City could lose 30% of police force over vaccine mandate
AP Photo/Richard Drew
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New York City is set to lose a significant percentage of its police force and fire department over the city’s newly imposed vaccine mandate, which comes into effect on October 29.

The mandate requires that city workers, including police officers and firefighters, be placed on unpaid leave if they have not received at least a single dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

“New York City took one of its most aggressive steps yet to increase vaccination rates in a city that was once the epicenter of the pandemic, requiring almost every member of the nation’s largest municipal workforce to get vaccinated by the end of the month or lose their paychecks,” the New York Times reported.

As signed by Mayor Bill de Blasio, the mandate follows similar requirements for the one imposed upon teachers and health-care workers, which led to a surge in vaccinations. The mandate on the city’s first responders is intended to “persuade” those who have resisted getting the vaccine to take the shot for winter, the Times reported.

According to Quartz, around 6,500 police employees, which make up roughly 30 per cent of the New York City’s Police Department’s force of 36,000 officers and 19,000 civilians have refused to take the vaccine.

On Wednesday, the firefighters union in New York City warned that the percentage of unvaccinated police employees could be similar in number for the city’s fire department, 911 dispatchers, and paramedics.

Despite the dire warnings, worse-case scenarios on vaccine mandate compliance have failed to play out in other cities that imposed similar requirements on their workforces.

In Chicago, which was one of the first cities to institute a vaccine mandate over its first responders, only 21 officers were placed on unpaid leave for failing to report their vaccination status to the city. The Associated Press reports that around 67 per cent of the police force had entered its vaccination status, and around 80 per cent received at least one dose of the vaccine.

In addition to putting its unvaccinated employees on unpaid leave, the city of New York will offer a “vaccine bonus” of $500 for those who get vaccinated by the October 29 deadline.

A New York police union is trying to stop enforcement of the vaccine mandate and has filed suit to enjoin the city from enforcing it. The lawsuit claims that prior to issuing the mandate, the city had a “vax or test” policy that was already sufficient to preserve public safety, and that the new policy provides too little time for officers who may have medical or religious reasons to seek an exemption due to the necessary paperwork involved.

“The Police Benevolent Association argues that the policy does not make clear potential exceptions for medical or religious reasons, and does not give unvaccinated officers sufficient time to apply for such exemptions, as those appeals must be submitted by Wednesday — one week after the mandate was announced,” CBS News reported.

“NYPD police officers are not a major source of transmission of COVID-19. Almost a third of the police force already has immunity due to prior COVID-19 infection,” the lawsuit states. “Police officers have not suddenly become a public health risk.”

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