Covid has killed hundreds of police. Many still resist vaccines.


In San Jose, Calif., City leaders decided, just as a vaccination mandate was taking effect, to allow unvaccinated agents to remain employed until the end of the year, with additional requirements in discipline and testing. San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo has said he wants to keep as many police officers as possible on the job, but worries about the public health risks of having unvaccinated police officers on the streets.

“It’s a huge challenge, and I think mayors across the country are balancing the safety imperatives of answering 911 calls with the safety imperatives of having a workforce vaccinated,” said Mr. Liccardo.

But agents have leverage. Many police departments have an abundance of job openings and a shortage of qualified candidates. And city leaders say they don’t want to risk a massive departure of officers at a time when homicides have increased nationwide.

“If you decide to go ahead with the requirement for this vaccine, the agent loss is on you,” said Josh Carter, an officer in Leesburg, Va., At a recent meeting where the City council members considered a vaccine mandate for city workers (and decided not to vote that day). “I will come back and ask you what your plan is to keep my family and neighbors safe with little or no officers patrolling our streets or schools,” Carter told the council.

Still, warrant supporters have noted that there are risks to the public in not demanding the shots. Mayor Kelly Burk of Leesburg, a suburb of Washington, said she supported the vaccine requirement.

“We have a job, and this job is also to protect, and they are part of that protection,” Ms. Burk, a Democrat, said of the city’s police force. “And so if they are not vaccinated, if they are not willing to wear masks, then it becomes a real problem.”

Workplace vaccination mandates have become more common as the Delta variant has skyrocketed cases and President Biden has announced plans to require frequent vaccination or testing from large employers. The warrants have been successful in increasing vaccination rates at healthcare companies, airlines and other businesses, and a relatively small number of workers have left their jobs because of the problem.

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