Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva claimed Tuesday that more than 4,000
department employees are facing possible termination due to the county's COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
Villanueva has called the mandate an imminent threat to public safety if there are terminations in his department and warned of a "mass exodus'' in the workforce.
Speaking at a downtown Los Angeles news conference, the sheriff said that as of Tuesday morning, 51.7% of the department's roughly 16,000 employees are fully vaccinated. Among sworn personnel, however, the figure is only 42.8%, while it is 67.2% among professional civilian staff.
Countywide, 80% of eligible residents aged 12 and over have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 72% are fully vaccinated.
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He estimated that 4,185 personnel are facing possible termination due to failure to meet the county mandate, with nearly 3,200 of those people being sworn personnel, a number he compared to the size of the agency's entire patrol division.
"Imagine what would happen if every one of these (people) were terminated,'' he said. "What would the department look like.''
Villanueva has said he expects homicide rates in the county would continue to rise, and response times would increase with patrol services declining as a result of a reduction in department personnel.
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The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors ratified an executive order in August that required all county employees, including sheriff's deputies, to register their vaccination status by Oct. 1 on an online portal. Religious and medical exceptions were allowed.
Villanueva, who oversees the largest sheriff's department in the county with roughly 18,000 employees, said in a Facebook Live event that he does not plan to carry out the county's mandate. Villanueva said his employees are willing to be terminated rather than get vaccinated.
Villanueva's announcement came a day after the city of Los Angeles approved one of the nation’s strictest vaccine mandates — a sweeping measure that requires the shots for everyone entering bars, restaurants, nail salons, gyms or even a Lakers game.
NBCLA's Jonathan Lloyd contributed to this report.