Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva on Friday called the COVID-19 vaccine mandate an “imminent threat to public safety” that is causing a “mass exodus” of up to 30 percent of the workforce at the LA County Sheriff’s Department as “homicides [continue] to rise.”
“The [Board of Supervisor’s] vaccination mandate is causing a mass exodus within the Department, which is an absolutely absurd result. I have repeatedly stated the dangers to public safety when 20%-30% of my workforce is no longer available to provide service, and those dangers are quickly becoming a reality,” Villanueva wrote in a statement.
The sheriff said his department is experiencing an increase in unscheduled retirements, worker compensation claims, staff members quitting, and fewer qualified applicants. The exodus will cause homicide rates to continue rising, emergency response times to be longer, the number of arrests to decrease, patrol services to significantly drop, and patrol stations to close, he said.
“A large part of our workforce who is close to retirement finds it easier to simply retire, than be forced into a decision which should be a personal choice,” Villanueva’s statement read. “Other personnel who were called “heroes” for diligently working in service to the community during the pandemic, while other professions stayed home, have decided to finally get those surgeries they have been putting off for injuries sustained throughout their careers (knees, shoulders, back, etc.).”
“This unintended consequence to public safety was predictable,” he continued. “In the near future, unless something changes, the ‘defunded’ and ‘de-staffed’ Sheriff’s Department will no longer be able to sustain the staffing levels required to maintain public safety at the status quo.”
Villanueva said his personnel are already required to wear masks and would be open to routine COVID-19 testing as an alternative to the vaccine, “so termination makes no sense.”
“Personally, I am vaccinated and believe the vaccine works, but the choice to receive the vaccine is a personal one, and an individual who served the community tirelessly before there was a vaccine should not now be fired because they made a decision about their own body,” the sheriff argued.
He asked the public to contact the Board of Supervisors and voice their opinions on the matter, adding that the mandate is not justified considering the pandemic is diminishing.
“It is like putting up the storm windows after the storm has passed,” he said.
An August executive order by the Board of Supervisors required all Los Angeles County employees to register their COVID-19 vaccination status by Oct. 1.
Still one month since the deadline, roughly 30 percent of the Sheriff’s Department workers had not registered their status, county spokesman Michael Wilson told the Los Angeles Times. Wilson did not say if the local government was tracking the number of employees who have resigned or retired due to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
“The county expects all department heads to encourage their employees to register as an important public health measure to protect workers and the public we serve,” Wilson said. “The vaccination policy is intended to save lives, not to punish employees based on their vaccination status.”
A recent year-long study showed that people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 are just as likely to spread the delta variant as those who have not taken the shots, a study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases medical journal found, as reported by Bloomberg.