LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva on Thursday again criticized the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for Sheriff's Department employees, describing the requirement as an "imminent threat to public safety."
Villanueva made the remarks during a town hall event after releasing a 340-word statement on the matter.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors' "vaccination mandate is causing a mass exodus within the Department, which is an absolutely absurd result," the sheriff's statement said. "I have repeatedly stated the dangers to public safety when 20%-30% of my workforce is no longer available to provide service, and those dangers are quickly becoming a reality. We are experiencing an increase in unscheduled retirements, worker compensation claims, employees quitting, and a reduction in qualified applicants. As a result, homicide rates will continue to rise, response times will increase, solve rates will diminish, arrests will decline, patrol services will significantly decline, and patrol stations will close."
Speaking at the town hall and referring to LASD employees, Villanueva added: "How are we going to get any safer by having everybody leave?"
He said he could "use three or four thousand more deputies -- and I still wouldn't have the staffing rate" that the Los Angeles Police Department historically has had.
You'll need to have proof of full vaccination to get into certain LA County businesses next week
The sheriff pointed out that his agency's personnel wear masks and are willing to submit to routine COVID-19 testing.
"Personally, I am vaccinated and believe the vaccine works, but the choice to receive the vaccine is a personal one, and an individual who served the community tirelessly before there was a vaccine should not now be fired because they made a decision about their own body," Villanueva said.