COVID-19 is nation’s biggest cop killer, but many officers are vaccine resistant – .

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COVID-19 is nation’s biggest cop killer, but many officers are vaccine resistant – .


A homeland security officer in Georgia and a deputy sheriff in Kentucky are among the nearly two dozen law enforcement officers who died last month from COVID-19, now the leading cause of work-related deaths among American police professionals. Yet even though COVID-19 kills far more cops than gunshots, those whose duty it is to serve and protect the public are among the most resistant to get vaccinated.
From California to New York, unions representing law enforcement are fighting the demand that members be immune to the coronavirus, which has killed more than 500 officers since the start of the pandemic. While law enforcement officers were among the first frontline workers to be offered coronavirus vaccines, their vaccination rates by most accounts remain equal to or lower than the general public.

While Americans in law enforcement aren’t the only ones resisting vaccination, the outcry from their ranks over vaccination warrants has been particularly virulent. Unions and others speaking on behalf of police are outraged as some US cities and counties adopt vaccination warrants for government employees.

“It’s a sad situation we find ourselves in, that something that can protect their lives and everyone’s lives has become such a point of resistance,” said Sandra Crouse Quinn, professor of family science at the University. from Maryland who studied how communication plays a role in vaccine uptake.

Mandates work best with education and dialogue, “so that agents with questions about the vaccine have an opportunity to speak to health care providers.” I don’t know to what extent this is happening, ”Quinn added.

The ongoing battles are fought as the death toll from COVID-19 continues to rise almost daily. At least 21 officers have died in October alone after contracting the virus on the job, according to Officer Down Memorial Page, or ODMP, a nonprofit dedicated to honoring law enforcement officers fallen in battle.

Among those who have died in recent weeks after contracting COVID-19 at work include Victor Donate, 58, a United States customs and border protection officer who was infected while posted to Atlanta International Airport. The former US Navy pilot is survived by a wife and three children, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

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Victor J. Donate, 58, a United States Customs and Border Protection officer, died of COVID-19 on October 7, 2021.
US Department of Homeland Security

Recent deaths also include 31-year-old officer Kris Hutchison, who contracted COVID-19 while working at Haltom Middle School in Haltom City, Texas. The Marine Corps veteran died Oct. 27 after four weeks in an intensive care hospital, according to a local CBS affiliate. In Kentucky, Floyd County Deputy Sheriff Oliver Little died at age 46 on October 13, just weeks after contracting COVID-19 while on duty.

The virus killed more police officers nationwide last year than all other causes combined, according to data from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. The coronavirus was also the most common cause of service-related death in 2020 and 2021, according to the ODMP.

In Pennsylvania’s second-most populous city, a deadlock over a vaccine requirement coincided with reports of a third Pittsburgh police officer dying of COVID-19 in the past month. Pittsburgh announced on Nov. 1 that all of its workers must be vaccinated by Dec. 22, prompting the union representing police to file a grievance and unfair labor practice.

Bob Swartzwelder, president of the Fort Pitt Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No.1, which represents 906 active Pittsburgh police officers, told CBS MoneyWatch on Monday that the city has a responsibility to negotiate before ordering its members to Being shot at.

“I’m pro-vaccine but I’m anti-mandate,” said Swartzwelder, who described himself as fully vaccinated.

The city has already lost 78 officers to retirement, resignation or death this year, and another 257 are eligible for retirement, and the tenure may well hasten their decision to leave, Swartzwelder warned. “It takes 18 months to fully train a police officer and put him on the streets. You already have a police service in crisis.

The union leader asked how the city can demand that workers be vaccinated while still allowing protests, parades, football games and “all those non-critical events to happen.”

In Chicago, the police union won a victory in its fight against a policy requiring its officers to be vaccinated by the end of the year, with a Cook County judge suspending the city’s mandate on Nov. 1. Chicago agents, however, are still required to report their immunization status and get tested twice a week if they are not vaccinated.

Local CBS 2 legal analyst Irv Miller called the decision a partial victory for both sides.

“The city must respect its mandate to report if you have been vaccinated, and the [Fraternal Order of Police] got rid of the Dec. 31 order – which could have resulted in many layoffs, ”Miller said.

Last Wednesday, FOP union president John Catanzara continued to call for grassroots resistance: “The goal now is to get more than 1,000 or 2,000 officers to submit to disobedience to a direct order. They can never deal with that much, ”he said in a statement. video posted on YouTube.

Catanzara did not return a CBS MoneyWatch request for further comment.

According to city data, 3,435 DPC officers and civilian employees had yet to report their immunization status on Monday, 300 less than a week earlier. On November 1, Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown said 35 officers had been stripped of their powers for refusing a direct order to provide their status.

Equally abrasive, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva called a press conference last Tuesday to detonate a vaccination warrant as a threat to public safety, saying it would cause an exodus of lawmakers from his department.


Imminent threat to public safety due to vaccination warrants through
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department on Youtube

While acknowledging that 15 members of his department have died from COVID-19, Villanueva has said for weeks that he will not force his assistants to be vaccinated, saying the decision should be left to individuals.

“People just don’t trust the vaccine, part is driven by political ideology, part may be irrational, [and] some people may have a legitimate reason for not trusting the vaccine, ”Villanueva said at a press conference on Tuesday. “And in a department of this profession, which tends to be dominated by people of a more conservative leanings, that’s what you would expect. “

The sheriff’s department declined to comment further, and the union representing his deputies did not respond to a request for comment.

Los Angeles Police Department chief Michel Moore takes a decidedly different approach to the mandate and has agreed to uphold the rules. The different positions of the two are reflected in the immunization figures of their respective departments. About 53% of the 16,070 sheriff’s department employees – sworn officers as well as civilians – have received at least one vaccination, compared to 74% of LAPD employees.

The LAPD made no further comments and its union representing its leaders did not respond to a request for comment.

Cops don’t like being told what to do

The reasons law enforcement refuses to be vaccinated against COVID-19 reflects feelings expressed across the country, largely of a political nature. But a dominant theme, it seems, is that no one likes being ordered to do something, and the cops are no exception. In addition, police officers are regularly faced with danger, which allows some of them to ward off the threat of COVID-19.

While many police officers believe they are young and healthy enough to survive infections, “others don’t want to be told what to do,” Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, who advises the country’s police services.

The notion that warrants infringe individual rights has overtaken broader public health and safety concerns, according to Wexler.

“The officers get sick and die and yet you would think they would be 100% vaccinated,” he said. “It’s a matter of health and safety, that’s what is lost in this discussion. You must be wondering if this is really the kind of problem you would quit for? ”

Yet the warnings that the warrants would exhaust the ranks and lead to chaos don’t exactly unfold.

“People generally like to have a choice, and tenure can be frustrating in many circumstances, but that doesn’t mean they don’t work,” Adam Galinsky, professor of leadership at Columbia Business School, told CBS MoneyWatch. .

This turns out to be the case in New York City, where more than 92% of the 160,500 city employees affected by the city’s vaccination mandate were compliant as of November 3. This is an increase from 84% on October 20, when rules affecting police and firefighters were announced.

The union representing NYPD officers did not return a request for comment.

Another example of a vaccine warrant working despite fierce opposition and warnings of a mass exodus of officers recently took place in San Jose, California. After warnings from the police union that more than 100 policemen were ready to resign, only six city workers chose not to pay a week’s salary to remain unvaccinated, everyone else, including the police, opted out of paying a week’s salary to remain unvaccinated. getting vaccinated or exempted, according to the Mercury News. As of Thursday, 95% of city employees had provided proof that they were fully vaccinated, including 92% of the 1,146 sworn officers, city officials told the newspaper.

Decades of research have shown that pragmatic concerns can trump a strong point of view, said Galinsky of Columbia.

“People can express attitudes, but when it comes to making a decision with a tangible cost or impact, you can’t always predict behavior from an attitude,” he explained.



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