LAPD

LA Vaccine Mandate: Police Chief Vows to ‘Honor Every Exemption Request' Possible

LAPD Chief Michel Moore has repeatedly urged officers to get the Covid-19 vaccine and reports nearly 80% of employees have now had at least 1 shot.

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In an internal video message sent to Los Angeles Police Department officers, Chief Michel Moore said he would give as many allowances as possible to those who’ve asked for religious or medical exemptions from getting the Covid-19 vaccine that’s now required for all City employees.

"My commitment is to honor every exemption request, every request for accommodation possible, with regards to this vaccine,” Moore said in the video sent to officers last Friday and obtained by NBC4’s I-Team.

Responding to the I-Team’s questions regarding Moore’s comments a senior LAPD official said on Tuesday that the Chief meant that he would honor all of the exemptions that are first approved through the City’s evaluation process.

“The process that is in place has independent reviewers who will have reviewed the requests beforehand, and that information will be provided to the Chief,” the official explained.

More than 2,000 LAPD officers have indicated they will or have asked for an exemption, and as of last week, about 500 had yet to report to the City whether or not they were vaccinated.

Moore told the LA Police Commission Tuesday that 73% of the department’s workforce had been fully vaccinated, and that two officers had been sent home for refusing to comply with orders to report their vaccination status or request an exemption.

The City’s mandate requires all employees without an approved exemption to be fully vaccinated by Dec. 18 or face possible termination. Moore said Tuesday 78% percent of police employees had now received at least one vaccination dose.

Exemption requests will be evaluated by each City department before a panel of retired personnel makes a decision on whether or not they should be granted, a senior City official said.

Although department heads, like Chief Moore, will not make the initial decisions, employees may appeal the panel decisions, in which case the department heads will have the authority to overrule the panel and grant the exemptions.

Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the Chief’s remarks.

The Chief’s message surprised a number of officers who told the I-Team in recent days they had been warned the City would grant few exemptions, including indications shared during roll calls and other meetings in the last week that the only qualifying medical exemption would be a diagnosed allergy to a component of the Covid-19 vaccine.

Moore began to address Covid-19 on the video by reminding officers that the virus remains a significant threat to their health, the health of their families, and the health of their coworkers, with three officers currently being treated in the hospital and 80 others recovering at home from infections. 

Eight officers and two support staff at LAPD have died from COVID. As of Tuesday one officer was hospitalized in "very serious" condition and 85 others were recovering at home. 

“In the news, this has been weaponized and there’s opinions all over the map about the path forward,” Moore said while discussing the Covid-19 pandemic and the City’s vaccine mandate, and while triumphant music played in the background. 

The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, which tracks the deaths of police officers nationwide, said in its mid-2021 report that Covid-19 was the leading cause of officers’ untimely deaths during the first six months of the year.

The Memorial Fund reported that as of Nov. 8, 2021 officer deaths in 2021 due to "other causes," which include Covid-19, had increased 43% compared with the same time period in 2020. The number of officers killed in shootings also increased in 2021 by 27%, and the number of officers killed in traffic collisions increased in 2021 by 30%.

Last week the LAPD began to require officers who had so far refused to report their vaccination status, or who had refused to get the vaccine, to sign an agreement committing them to twice-weekly testing and other rules.

“That’s a very uncomfortable circumstance,” Moore said in the video. “I’m sure no one welcomed the opportunity to sit down with their commanding officer and be issued the notice.”

“I assure you that this is not meant to be punitive, that it’s not meant to demoralize you, for those that have been impacted,” he said. 

Another message sent to officers last week said that the start of twice-weekly Covid testing, required of unvaccinated employees, including those awaiting exemption decisions, had been delayed until next week. The testing had been scheduled to begin Monday.

Unvaccinated employees are being required to pay for the testing, with the City deducting $260 from each paycheck.

In the video Chief Moore again encouraged officers to get the Covid-19 vaccine.

“To help you, protect you, your family, your colleagues, and again, the people in which we serve,” Moore said.

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