The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and Sheriff Alex Villanueva continued their ongoing clash over the imposed vaccine mandate, with the county’s top cop calling the public health order an “imminent threat to public safety.”
In a statement sent on his office’s official letterhead to the Board of Supervisors, Villanueva said that the department could potentially lose “44% of (its) workforce in one day,” and said that he “cannot enforce reckless mandates that put the public’s safety at risk.”
Earlier this month Villanueva had said, in a statement distributed via his social media, that he would not be enforcing the mandate within his own agency. The letter, sent to the board, argues that the mandate — passed by the supervisors on Aug. 10 — would result in a mass exodus of employees, which would hamper the department’s ability to deploy resources in times of critical need.
In response to Villanueva’s assertions, on Friday Supervisor Kathryn Barger stated that she continues to support the Department of Public Health orders and guidelines that “will keep our residents from dying or falling gravely ill, including COVID-19 vaccinations.
“A data-driven and science-informed approach is essential to protecting public health and public safety,” said Barger in a statement sent to The Signal. “While I am an avid and committed supporter of our law enforcement professionals and their important role in keeping our communities safe, being vaccinated against COVID-19 is an important part of that mission.”
“It is important to also recognize that there are procedures in place for county employees who seek an exemption from the vaccination mandate due to personal medical or religious reasons,” Barger added.
In a statement sent to The Signal on Friday from the L.A. County Chief Executive Office, Senior Communications Manager Michael Wilson said that the 10% of the county’s employees and 21% of Sheriff’s Department employees who are not vaccinated will be receiving notices in the coming days regarding their vaccination status.
“Notices are currently going out to employees who have not yet complied with the vaccination policy, informing them that they have 45 days from the date of the notice to register as fully vaccinated. Notices will be issued in batches, so there isn’t one specific date to monitor,” said Wilson. “After the 45 days have passed, employees who have not demonstrated proof of full vaccination or requested an accommodation will get a five-day suspension and have 30 days after they return from suspension to come into compliance.”
Wilson stated that the timetable has not changed since it was enacted over the summer. Employees who have not registered are being notified they must do so and begin testing within five days of the notice or face discipline.
“Employees are permitted to seek an accommodation on medical or religious grounds, and the policy provides ample time for this process,” said Wilson, later adding: “It is our hope that 100% of our workforce will comply with the policy and register in the system, and that those who wish to seek accommodations will take full advantage of the process that has been put in place for them to do so.”
Villanueva said in his letter that homicide rates are up 44% and aggravated assaults are up nearly 23%. He then stated that it is “heartbreaking” to threaten the people dealing with the rise in crime with termination due to a “personal medical choice,” and that a number of the 1,605 Sheriff’s Department employees with 28 years of service could retire as a result of the mandate.
“This board’s mandate will cause patrol services to significantly decline,” said Villanueva. “I would be forced to take drastic measures such as reducing services to the county and contract residents, which would cause the closure and realignment of patrol stations.”
Villanueva said that his staff has already taken certain precautions and those unvaccinated must submit to COVID-19 testing.
“I cannot afford to cut emergency services or choose not to send a patrol car to assist a community member in need,” said Villanueva. “As the sheriff, I can firmly tell you this mandate will create a pandemic of chaos within our county, resulting in tragic losses.”