Sheriff Villanueva continues to resist vaccine mandate, says he could lose thousands of deputies

Rob Hayes Image
Thursday, February 10, 2022
LAPD and LASD show contrasting approaches to vaccine mandate
The first LAPD officer to refuse the city's vaccine mandate has been fired as tensions mount on how best to enforce mandates

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The first Los Angeles Police Department officer to refuse the city's vaccine mandate has been fired. Seven additional officers also face potential termination over the issue.

In the meantime, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department is at odds with the Board of Supervisors over whether deputies will also lose their jobs for refusing to be vaccinated. Sheriff Alex Villanueva says potentially thousands of deputies' jobs could be at risk.

The board is frustrated that the sheriff refuses to enforce the mandate that all county employees be fully vaccinated.

On Tuesday, The Board of Supervisors gave preliminary approval to a proposal that would give the county personnel director overriding authority to discipline any employees who fail to comply with the requirement. Employees can be re-hired if their vaccination status changes.

READ MORE | LA County approves motion that would discipline workers who don't comply with COVID vaccine mandate

On Tuesday, Sheriff Alex Villanueva declined to enforce the county's COVID-19 vaccine mandate, calling the proposal a "death blow to public safety."

"Your motion is going to seek to basically cause us to actually lose 4,000 employees, for a grand total of 0.4% improvement in positivity rate,'' he said. "(That) is not exactly benefit to public safety. We're coming off two years of a historically high 94% increase in homicide rate, 64% increase in grand theft auto. And this is just not sustainable. The current situation is not sustainable. The hiring freeze is not sustainable."

Villanueva has not reported his department's vaccine compliance data with the county, so those figures are impossible to verify. Those figures drastically differ with LAPD.'s vaccination numbers, as the department says only eight officers have not complied with the mandate, which is less than 1% of its total staff.

Villanueva chalks that divide between the sheriffs department and LAPD to political ideology.

"If you look at the city of LA, and that includes their fire department, their police department, they're all roughly cut from the same ideological cloth, and right now it's the political ideology that the conservatives don't believe in the vaccine, liberals believe in a vaccine and they're wedding themselves to this whole woke idea," he said.

Others have praised the vaccine mandate as necessary to protect the citizens LASD serves.

"We are not going to permit county lives to be jeopardized by an individual decision," Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl said.

At one point during last month's omicron spike, more than 1,000 LAPD staffers were out due to positive tests or exposures. But with hospitalizations due to COVID falling below 3,000 this week, some believe it's time to ease restrictions, not double-down on enforcement.

"I urge you to deescalate, dial back the rhetoric and find some common ground -- testing or vaccination, and we're doing that right now,'' Villanueva said