How San Diego’s vaccine mandate for city employees may impact police

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SAN DIEGO — City employees must get their first COVID shot by Wednesday in order to meet San Diego’s vaccine mandate deadline, which requires proof of full vaccination by Dec. 1.

The San Diego Police Officers Association has been among the most vocal when it comes to mandate negotiations.

“We’re going to do everything we can to retain the valuable members of our organization, but if folks choose to go somewhere else, we’ll do our level best to recruit topflight, high first-class talent,” San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria said Tuesday.

At least 40 officers had applied to other departments and dozens more said they would not comply with the city’s mandate if religious or medical exemptions were denied, the SDPOA confirmed.

Gloria said city employees had started turning in exemption requests and that the HR department would be reviewing them.

“We recognize that there are some folks for whom their medical conditions may make it impossible for them to receive the vaccine,” he said. “We certainly understand that. We certainly have heard from folks who have strongly held religious feelings, beliefs that they believe they can’t get vaccinated. We will look at those. We’ll look at those very closely and we’ll grant them based on what we think are sincere and authentic.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, the city confirmed 1,163 members of the SDPOA have been fully vaccinated, while 740 members are not fully vaccinated and 80 have not submitted a response.

“There are people that are very passionate, very determined in this situation and you know if they can’t reasonably accommodate them, then we’re going to have a definite staffing shortage,” SDPOA President Detective Jack Schaeffer said.

The San Diego Police Department is not fully staffed right now and has the second lowest officer-to-citizen ratio in the country with fewer than 2,000 officers serving the city.

After a mass exodus of officers about ten years ago, the department struggled for years to fill vacancies. In 2016, under Chief Shelly Zimmerman, the department was 162 officers short of full staff.

The department is still understaffed, but now at a time when regular and violent crimes are spiking and there is growing concern that if officers leave when the Dec. 1 vaccination deadline hits, response times during emergencies will increase.

Meanwhile in Los Angeles, the county’s sheriff, Alex Villanueva, said on Nov. 2 he would not comply with a mandate requiring deputies be vaccinated against the coronavirus or face termination, claiming thousands could leave the department and that will lead to more crime, the Associated Press reported.

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