Several state troopers in Massachusetts have opted to walk away from their jobs rather than get the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine.
According to the State Police Association of Massachusetts (SPAM), dozens of troopers have submitted their resignation papers because of the state’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Some have spoken with the human resources department to evaluate what their pensions would be if they choose to retire.
The state is requiring all executive department employees to show proof of vaccination by Oct. 17 or risk losing their jobs. About 20 percent of State Police employees are not vaccinated.
Last week, a judge denied a request from the State Police union to put a hold on Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker’s vaccine mandate for troopers.
“Throughout COVID, we have been on the front lines protecting the citizens of Massachusetts and beyond. Simply put, all we are asking for are the same basic accommodations that countless other departments have provided to their first responders, and to treat a COVID-related illness as a line of duty injury,” SPAM says in a statement released following the judge’s decision.
Some troopers who have already submitted their resignation papers plan to return to other departments offering alternatives like mask-wearing and regular testing. (Related: 65% of San Diego’s police force might quit due to covid vaccine mandate.)
With the State Police critically short-staffed, troopers from specialty units that investigate homicides, terrorism, computer crimes, arsons, gangs, narcotics and human trafficking have been asked to return to uniformed patrol.
SPAM President Sgt. Michael Cherven says some of the troopers he represents may be recruited away from Massachusetts State Police if the mandate does not include some accommodations. The union has 1,800 members.
“They have opportunities to return to the municipal departments where they came from. There are opportunities outside of Massachusetts. New Hampshire and New Jersey state police associations have reached out,” says Cherven.
WBZ security analyst Ed Davis says State Police are already facing a staffing shortage for several reasons. “COVID is certainly one of them. There’s also the situation that occurred across the country after the George Floyd murder. Police are rethinking whether they want to stay in the business,” says Davis.
Baker has no intention to retract or modify the mandate. “I think it’s critically important for public officials who deal directly with the public on a regular basis, who have no idea whether the people their dealing with are vaccinated or not. And those people who are dealing with them ought to believe that they are vaccinated,” says Baker.
Many police officers and their unions oppose vaccine mandates
Many police officers and their unions are opposing vaccine mandates. John Catanzara, the president of Chicago’s Fraternal Order of Police, which represents the city’s rank-and-file officers, has made it clear that he does not intend to comply with vaccine mandates.
“It cannot be mandated. It’s that simple,” Catanzara tells the Chicago Sun Times. “Our members don’t want to be mandated to do anything like that.”
Catanzara’s remarks come after Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s declaration that city employees will be required to get vaccinated. “We absolutely have to have a vaccine mandate,” says Lightfoot. “It’s for the safety of all involved, particularly members of the public who are interacting with city employees on a daily basis.”
Chicago’s vaccine mandate takes effect on Oct. 15, but Catanzara remains firm with his stance.