Los Angeles Sheriff Alex Villanueva revealed today that only 42.8% of his department’s sworn deputies have been vaccinated against the virus that causes Covid-19. Countywide, 72% of eligible residents aged 12 and over are fully vaccinated.
The rest of the LASD’s roughly 16,000 employees, made up of professional civilian staff, have a vaccination rate of 67.2%. And this is in the face of a policy mandated by the L.A. County Board of Supervisors — whose rules and ordinances the LASD is supposed to enforce.
By contrast, Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore said today 1,357 department employees had not submitted their vaccination status as of Friday, most of them from the ranks of sworn officers, of which there are 9,473. But even if every single one of those LAPD employees was from the sworn ranks, the department would have an 85.6% vaccination rate, which is considerably better than that of the public-at-large and twice that of the LASD. In reality, the LAPD vaccination rate is likely higher, given that some of those who are non-compliant are almost certainly among its non-sworn employees.
Moore has said he will enforce the city’s vaccination mandate, which does not take effect until December. If an employee does not submit information on their vaccination status, “the department, myself, will initiate disciplinary proceedings against the employees, civilian or sworn,” Moore said.
“Ultimately, our goal is to have to a 100% fully vaccinated workforce.”
As a result of his department’s low vaccination rate, Villanueva said today that more than 4,000 sheriff’s department employees are facing possible termination. Nearly 3,200 of those employees are sworn personnel, a number he compared to the size of the agency’s entire patrol division. Individual L.A. Sheriff’s deputies made between $68,712 and $107,867 annually in 2019, according to ABC7.
Villanueva blamed County Supervisors and their mandate for potential terminations, and issued a dire warning.
“Imagine what would happen if every one of these (people) were terminated,” he said. “What would the department look like.”
The Sheriff said last month that, based on budget cuts and employee reluctance, “we have to pick and choose,” which mandates from the Board to enforce. It’s an interesting stance since the Board of Supervisors, effectively, oversees Villanueva’s department.
“I have repeatedly stated the dangers to public safety when 20% to 30% of my workforce is no longer available to provide service, and those dangers are quickly becoming a reality,” Villanueva said in a statement last week. He had previously put the proportion of employees impacted at 10% and then said in a letter to Supervisors last week that the mandate could cause him to lose up to 44% of his workforce. “We are experiencing an increase in unscheduled retirements, worker compensation claims, employees quitting, and a reduction in qualified applicants.”
The resources argument is also baffling given that, of the 18,000 LASD employees, over 10,000 have either had Covid or been quarantined as a result of close contact with someone who was infected. That’s more than 55% of the department whose productivity has been impacted by the virus. The count is close to double the 20-30% Villanueva guesses would have a problem with the vaccine which, the Sheriff says, he personally has received.
Villanueva also claimed that 102 employees have filed for early retirement, 238 have given notice that they are leaving the department and more than 300 have submitted workers’ compensation claims. The sheriff asserted that the departures were a direct result of the vaccine mandate, which went into effect over a month ago.
Asked how he knew that the mandate was directly responsible, Villanueva answered, “That’s the information we’re getting from our employees.”
“People are not happy with the vaccine mandate,” he said. “The fact that we’re seeing the uptick, we’re attributing that to the vaccine mandate.”
The sheriff has repeatedly criticized the mandate, even while insisting that he is personally vaccinated and believes the vaccines are safe. He lashed out at the Board of Supervisors — which whom he has repeatedly clashed on various issues since taking office — accusing them of enacting the mandate without considering the consequences in terms of losing public safety personnel.
He also claimed that there are 1,605 sworn personnel who have more than 20 years of service, meaning they could retire immediately.
The Board of Supervisors ratified an executive order in August that requires all county employees, including sheriff’s deputies, to register their vaccination status on an online portal. The mandate went into effect on October 1 and allows for religious and medical exceptions.
Board members have in turn criticized Villanueva on the issue, accusing him of failing to display leadership in the department by encouraging deputies and employees to get vaccinated. Board chairwoman Hilda Solis said the sheriff was acting more like an “obstacle” instead of working to educate employees about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines.
City News Service contributed to this report.
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