While more than 460 American law enforcement officers have died from COVID-19 infections tied to their work since the start of the pandemic, the most common cause of duty-related deaths in 2020 and 2021, persuading officers to take a vaccine continues to be a struggle, reports the New York Times.
As more departments in recent weeks have considered requiring members to be vaccinated, officers and their unions have loudly pushed back, in some cases threatening resignations or flooding systems with requests for exemptions.
In Los Angeles, where vaccines are required for city workers, more than 2,600 employees of the Police Department said they intended to seek a religious exemption. Many police departments have an abundance of job openings and a dearth of qualified applicants. and city leaders say they do not want to risk a mass departure of officers.
Law enforcement and union officials cited disinformation, misleading claims by prominent conservatives and distrust in how vaccines were developed as reasons that some officers had resisted getting shots. Some officials theorized that the daily dangers of police work may also make an invisible virus seem less of a hazard, and vaccination less high a priority, for the police.
In Orange County, Florida, 45 percent of employees who responded to a recent survey were still not vaccinated. The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Chicago Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara said that sending home non-compliant officers could cut the city’s police presence over the weekend in half and that the union plans to take Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration to court over the mandate.