In response to Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker’s recent executive order requiring department employees to show proof of vaccination on or before October 17 or face termination, dozens of state Police troopers have put in their resignation papers, reports NPR.
State Police Association president Michael Cherven said the troopers should have “reasonable alternatives” to being required to get vaccinated, such as wearing masks and being tested regularly.
Despite the opposition, a state judge denied a request from the state’s police union to block the governor’s vaccine mandate for troopers, giving unvaccinated troopers just a few days to get their first vaccine.
The report from Massachusetts is the latest troubling development in the growing opposition from law enforcement and other first responders to required vaccinations.
COVID-19 is now the leading killer of law enforcement officers in the U.S., according to the Officer Down Memorial Page, a nonprofit that tracks police officer deaths, reports the Wall Street Journal.
Since January 2020, 420 have died from the disease, compared with 92 from gunfire, the second leading cause of death.
In Los Angeles, just 47 percent of the police department’s 12,000 employees were fully vaccinated as of Sept. 3, a department spokesman said, compared with 68 percent of all L.A. county residents 12 or older.
In San Diego, those rates are 50 percent, compared with 78 percent. In New York City, 61 percent of officers have gotten at least one vaccine dose, compared with 81 percent of all residents 12 and over.
Similarly low vaccination rates have been reported among other frontline workers such as fire department personnel.
In some cities, police have also balked at enforcing regulations requiring masks at certain venues or other public health requirements.
In New York, the city’s fire department—which has more than 17,000 uniform and civilian employees—has barely increased its vaccination rate since the beginning of September, reports The Gothamist.
The New York Department of Correction has the lowest reported vaccination rate of city workers: 48 percent.
Officers and other frontline workers have offered a variety of explanations for their refusal to be vaccinated, some citing their objections to government mandates with others claiming medical exemptions.
The right of public safety workers to refuse such requirements was rejected in a 1905 Supreme Court decision, which upheld a Cambridge, Mass., mandate that all residents should be vaccinated against smallpox in the interest of public safety.