A union representing hundreds of sheriff’s deputies protecting the City and County of San Francisco warned on Friday that “a percentage” of members “will retire early or seek employment elsewhere” if they are forced to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
The San Francisco Deputy Sheriffs’ Association (SFDSA) made the announcement on Facebook, saying a mandate for city employees in high-risk settings to be immunized by September 15 could affect public safety if deputies choose to vacate their jobs.
Many sheriff’s deputies are stationed at city jails, where large numbers of incarcerated people are often housed in close proximity.
According to the SFDSA, approximately 160 out of 700 deputy sheriffs are not vaccinated. The union said they would prefer to wear face coverings and be subjected to weekly testing “due to religious and other beliefs.”
“We are all for COVID-19 safety and we back that,” SFDSA President Kenneth Lomba told the San Francisco Chronicle. “Our problem is how this mandate – ‘vaccinate or you’ll be terminated,’ is really going to impact our staffing.”
On Thursday, SFDSA called on city leaders to focus on crime rather than forcing law enforcement to get vaccinated.
San Francisco sheriff's duputy union says that officers will quit in large numbers of the city imposes a vaccine mandate. pic.twitter.com/Qb00sEnHqH
— Scott Morris (@OakMorr) August 6, 2021
“Public safety of San Francisco has turned into the Wild West and will get worse when officers quit due to the vaccine mandate,” the union posted on social media.
According to the Chronicle, “Officials with the city’s Department of Human Resources issued a Friday statement sharply denouncing the union’s stance, particularly in light of the highly transmissible delta variant of the coronavirus.”
“There is also an undue and unacceptable health and safety risk that is imposed upon the city, our employees and the public we serve, by those who are not vaccinated against COVID-19,” officials said, per the Chronicle. “Vaccines are safe, effective and readily available to our employees.”
Officials announced the vaccination requirement “as a condition of employment” last month after updating the city’s public health order. It includes limited exemptions for religious or qualifying medical reasons. At the time, SFDSA President Lomba responded with a statement that read, in part, “Our African American and Hispanic members do not want to be forced to take vaccines due to the past history of vaccine abuse against minorities.”
More details from the Chronicle:
Nancy Crowley, a spokesperson for the sheriff’s department, said officials are working with the human resources department to obtain full compliance by the deadline. On Friday they released an internal video showing the undersheriff and assistant sheriff promoting vaccinations, and next week the department is holding a vaccination clinic at San Francisco’s Hall of Justice.
“We’re trying to make it as easy for folks to access as possible,” Crowley said.
Union leaders with the city’s fire and police departments did not confirm whether their members were also considering resigning in light of the order, but both said they wished the city had engaged labor leaders at the front end of the process.
About 17% of police and 9.5% of fire department employees were not vaccinated as of Friday, according to city data.
The Associated Press reported that the average unvaccinated rate across all San Francisco city departments is 7.7%.