LAPD examines whether it could make COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for cops
The Los Angeles Police Commission on Tuesday requested the LAPD report back to it on the possibility and legality of a COVID-19 vaccination mandate for officers and the work assignments of its unvaccinated personnel — who represent nearly half the department.
The commission’s civilian members requested the information during their weekly virtual meeting after citing reporting in The Times over the weekend that showed that vaccination rates in public safety agencies in L.A. and across California lag behind those of the state’s overall population.
Only about 52% of LAPD officers are at least partially vaccinated, compared with 64% of Los Angeles residents 16 and older and about 72% of adult Californians, The Times reported. Only about 51% of city firefighters are at least partially vaccinated.
Commissioner William Briggs said the low rate of vaccination among officers, combined with the fact that not all officers wear masks, raised concerns for him, particularly given the city’s obligation to keep its own employees and members of the public safe.
If the department is not requiring vaccinations and failing to ensure that all officers are wearing masks, “one could argue that we’re endangering the public,” Briggs said.
Los Angeles has reopened, but many first responders remain unvaccinated. Just over 50% of the city’s firefighters and police officers have gotten one shot.
“The only option I see is for us to possibly mandate vaccination for the department,” Briggs said. “I would like to see some sort of study done as to whether or not this can happen.”
Commissioner Lou Calanche said she would like information about the assignments and job duties of those LAPD employees who are not vaccinated, “just so we know where they fall in the department.”
LAPD Chief Michel Moore said top LAPD commanders and police union officials are continuing to urge vaccination among officers and are committed to following city personnel guidelines and state and federal workplace guidelines related to COVID-19.
He said that 65% of LAPD personnel have either been partially or fully vaccinated or are believed to have some natural antibodies from having previously contracted COVID-19. To date, more than 2,700 LAPD personnel have been infected and nine have died in a staff of more than 12,000.
Moore said that while the department’s once-large weekly infection rate has dropped to zero in the last two weeks, he remains concerned about the threat of the coronavirus and new variants of it — particularly given that a third of the department has no vaccination or natural protection and remains at high risk.
“That is a significant number to me and troublesome,” Moore said.
At the same time, Moore said he has been in touch with the city and department personnel officials and the city attorney’s office, and has been told that mandating that officers get the vaccine “is beyond our reach at this point” legally.
He said he would incorporate that advice, and the information on unvaccinated officers’ assignments, into a formal report to the commission.
The city attorney’s office said any advice it provided to Moore on the topic is confidential.
In The Times’ story on Sunday, Capt. Stacy Spell, an LAPD spokesman, said any discussion about a mandate before the COVID-19 vaccines get full authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, rather than the emergency authorization they currently have, is “premature.”
The International Assn. of Chiefs of Police, a respected national police leadership organization, has said police agencies may mandate vaccines under federal law, but may need to make religious or medical exceptions. It noted police agencies already require officers to get immunized against other medical threats such as tetanus and hepatitis.
The board of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union that represents rank-and-file officers, said it would generally oppose a vaccine mandate, but will continue to urge officers to get vaccinated and talk to their doctors about any concerns they have.
Police Commission President Eileen Decker asked the commission’s staff to work with Moore to produce the report, but did not set a deadline for the response.