Sheriff: Vaccination warrant causing a “mass exodus” among the ranks

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva continues to speak out against the county’s vaccine mandate, warning it is causing a “mass exodus” in his department and threatening public safety at a time when the crimes violent are on the increase.

“I have repeatedly said the dangers to public safety when 20-30% of my workforce is no longer available to provide services, and these dangers are quickly becoming a reality,” Villanueva said in a prepared statement that he last posted on social media. the week. “We are seeing an increase in unplanned retirements, workers’ compensation claims, employee departures and a reduction in the number of qualified applicants.”

As a result, he said, homicide rates in the county would continue to rise, while response times would increase and patrol services would decrease.

“With the decline of the pandemic, there is no justification for the mandate of the board of directors,” Villanueva said. “It’s like installing storm windows after a storm. “

Under a Executive Decree ratified by the Board of Supervisors in August, all Los Angeles County employees were required to register their immunization status by Oct. 1 through an online portal, although religious and medical exceptions are allowed.

As of Friday, more than 90 percent of county employees, including 79 percent of sheriff’s department employees, had registered their status, said Michael Wilson, a county spokesperson, in an emailed statement to The Times. He did not say whether the county was tracking the number of employees who quit or retired early specifically during the vaccination tenure.

“The county expects all department heads to encourage their employees to register as an important public health measure to protect the workers and the public we serve,” Wilson said. “The vaccination policy aims to save lives, not to punish employees based on their vaccination status. “

More than half of the 16,084 employees in the sheriff’s department are fully immunized, according to preliminary data collected by the county. Almost 300 are semi-vaccinated. 2,327 other employees are not vaccinated, while 1,843 are requesting exemptions.

Of the 9,656 sworn in sheriff staff, 3,942 are fully vaccinated, according to county records. There are 188 workers who are semi-vaccinated, while 1,698 are unvaccinated and nearly 1,369 are requesting exemptions.

Of the department’s 6,428 civilian employees, 4,238 are fully immunized, according to county data. About 100 are semi-vaccinated and 629 are unvaccinated. 474 other workers are asking for exemptions.

Notices are being sent in batches to county employees who have not complied with the vaccination policy, Wilson said. The notice advises them that they must comply with the warrant within 45 days of receiving the notice.

After that time, employees who still have not shown proof of vaccination or requested an exemption will receive a five-day suspension, Wilson said. Employees then have 30 days upon their return from suspension to comply.

Employees who do not register are reminded to do so and begin testing within five days of notification or face disciplinary action, Wilson said.

“We hope that 100% of our workforce will comply with the policy and register in the system, and that those who wish to request accommodations will take full advantage of the process that has been put in place to do so. Wilson said.

Los Angeles County is one of several jurisdictions in the state requiring employees to be vaccinated. The move prompted a police union – the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Professional Assn., Made up of approximately 1,850 members – to file a lawsuit over the vaccination registration. The union is asking for a temporary restraining order.

Meanwhile, groups of Los Angeles police and firefighters have filed lawsuits against the city, alleging that its vaccination mandate violates their rights and ignores the protection some of them enjoy against antibodies obtained during a previous infection with COVID-19. City council voted last week to extend the deadline until Dec. 18 for city employees to show proof of vaccination or face disciplinary action.

The LAPD has seen more than 3,000 employees fall ill from COVID-19 and, last week, more than 100 staff were recovering at home, LAPD chief Michel Moore said. About 74% of LAPD employees have received at least one dose of the vaccine, he said.

But recent data has shown that hundreds of officers still have not told the department if they were vaccinated.

The county’s vaccination mandate came as the state grappled with a wave of coronavirus cases triggered by the emergence of the highly infectious Delta variant.

In recent weeks, the number of weekly coronavirus cases and hospitalizations across the state has leveled off and the transmission rate has been among the lowest in the country. Authorities hope vaccine requirements and other safety rules will help prevent another spike in cases and deaths this winter, especially during the holiday season.

In his statement to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, Villanueva noted that staff in his department already wear masks and undergo regular COVID-19 testing.

“Personally, I am vaccinated and I believe the vaccine works,” he said, “but the choice to receive the vaccine is a personal one, and an individual who has served the community tirelessly before it was there. having a vaccine should not now be fired because he made a decision regarding their body.

Times editors Alene Tchekmedyian, Luke Money, Rong-Gong Lin II, and Kevin Rector contributed to this report.

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