The Los Angeles County Sheriff said the COVID-19 vaccine mandate meant to protect the public will cause nearly half of his department to quit.
In a Thursday letter to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, Sheriff Alex Villanueva lamented a potential “mass exodus” of police officers if he were to enforce the rule.
“If I were to follow your mandate, I could potentially lose 44 percent of my workforce in one day,” Villanueva wrote. “I cannot enforce reckless mandates that put the public’s safety at risk.”
The county mandate requires all employees be fully vaccinated. More from the LAist:
The county is currently sending notices to employees who have not yet complied with the vaccination policy that they have 45 days from the date of the notice to register as fully vaccinated, according to a statement from the office of County CEO Fesia Davenport.
After the 45 days have passed, employees who have not demonstrated proof of full vaccination or requested a medical or religious exemption will get a five-day suspension and have 30 days after they return from suspension to come into compliance, the statement said.
The Sheriff’s Department — the largest in the country — employs approximately 18,000 people. About half are sworn deputies.
“With the pandemic waning, there is no justification for your mandate,” Villanueva wrote. “This mandate is like putting up storm windows after the storm has passed.”
But the storm hasn’t passed. COVID-19 continues to impact many parts of the country, and new variants of the virus have all but ensured that the public will be dealing with the coronavirus for the foreseeable future. One simple solution to protecting yourself and others, however, is to get vaccinated. Getting vaccinated is safe, easy and free.
Vaccine mandates also work: Vaccination rates among LAPD officers have risen to at least 65% following the announcement of a mandate, the police chief said earlier this month.
But Villanueva, who said he himself is vaccinated, doesn’t seem to think that would apply to his employees, writing in his letter: “As the Sheriff, I can firmly tell you this mandate will create a pandemic of chaos within our county resulting in tragic losses.”
In his letter, Villanueva said he has “ordered my staff to wear masks,” despite previously pouting about a mask mandate that he falsely claimed was “not backed by science.”