The president of the civilian Los Angeles Police Commission Tuesday called on the department's personnel to get vaccinated, calling it "extremely dubious" that more than 2,000 of them are planning to seek religious exemptions from the city's vaccination mandate for municipal employees.
"I personally find it appalling that the personnel of a department charged with public safety would willfully, intentionally and brazenly endanger the lives of those they have taken an oath to protect," Commission President William Briggs said.
"I'm talking about those individuals who openly disregard the solemn promise they made to protect the citizens of Los Angeles by refusing to be vaccinated."
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Briggs said he was speaking in response to written letters submitted to the commission by the public expressing concern that officers aren't vaccinated.
Nearly 11% of Los Angeles' 57,476 city employees have stated their intent to seek a religious or medical exemption from the city's mandate that employees get vaccinated against COVID-19, according to data released by the city on Sept. 14.
About half of those come from the Los Angeles Police Department, which has 2,651 employees planning to file for religious exemptions and 368 planning to file for medical exemptions. The department has a total of 12,315 employees, of whom about 54% had received at least one dose of the vaccine as of Sept. 14.
On Wednesday, the Los Angeles Police Union released a statement in response to the commission president's comments, which called those comments "ill-informed and disparaging."
"Mr. Briggs condemnation of police officers who have indicated they may seek a religious exemption is unjustified, bigoted and reckless," the statement from the Los Angeles Police Protective League read. "His blanket labeling of religious exemption applications as being 'dubious' when they have not even been submitted, let alone evaluated, will have a chilling effect on police officers exercising and expressing their long-held religious beliefs."
"Mr. Briggs should apologize to all those he has accused of lying without any evidence to back it up and focus his time on reducing what is far from ‘dubious’; the huge increase in homicides, shootings and street-level robberies plaguing our city."
On Aug. 18, the Los Angeles City Council approved an ordinance to require non-exempt employees to be fully inoculated by Oct. 5.
Exemption requests will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. People qualify for an exemption if they have a medical condition or sincerely held religious beliefs, practices or observances that prevent them from receiving the vaccine.