New York City may lose up to 30% of its police force and fire department after October 29 over a mandate that puts officers and firefighters on unpaid leave if they have not received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“New York City took one of its most aggressive steps yet to increase vaccination rates in a city that was once the epicenter of the pandemic, requiring almost every member of the nation’s largest municipal workforce to get vaccinated by the end of the month or lose their paychecks,” The New York Times reported last week.
“The new mandate by Mayor Bill de Blasio, following similar requirements for teachers and health care workers that led to a surge in vaccinations, is intended to persuade thousands of city workers who have resisted getting the shot to do so before the winter,” the outlet noted.
Quartz estimates that that includes about “6,500 New York Police Department (NYPD) employees—or roughly 30% of the agency’s total workforce of 36,000 officers and 19,000 civilians—who have so far refused to get vaccinated.”
The firefighters union in New York City warned Wednesday that the percentage could be similar for the city’s fire department, 911 dispatchers, and emergency medical technicians.
Firefighters in NYC warning New Yorkers of the vaccine mandate consequences. pic.twitter.com/Y9nEpeWuWV
— Karol Markowicz (@karol) October 27, 2021
So far, worst-case scenarios on vaccine mandate compliance have not played out in other cities with similar requirements.
Chicago, one of the first municipalities to institute such a mandate over the objections of unions, was bracing for a similar walk-off, but just 21 officers were placed on unpaid leave for not reporting their vaccination status to city officials. Chicago noted that around 67% of the police force had entered its vaccination status and around 80% had received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to The Associated Press.
New York is going one step above other cities in adding a “vaccine bonus” of $500 for individuals who get the vaccine by October 29.
A NYPD police union, however, is trying to halt enforcement of the city’s vaccine order, filing suit to enjoin the city from enforcing it, noting that prior to the mandate, the city had a “vax or test” policy that the police union said was adequate to preserve public safety and that the new policy does not provide adequate time for officers who might have a medical or religious reason for seeking an exemption to obtain the necessary paperwork.
“The Police Benevolent Association argues that the policy does not make clear potential exceptions for medical or religious reasons, and does not give unvaccinated officers sufficient time to apply for such exemptions, as those appeals must be submitted by Wednesday — one week after the mandate was announced,” CBS News noted.
“NYPD police officers are not a major source of transmission of COVID-19. Almost a third of the police force already has immunity due to prior COVID-19 infection,” the lawsuit reads. “Police officers have not suddenly become a public health risk.”