The largest police union in New York City asked a judge on Monday to allow unvaccinated police officers to continue working, despite the city’s recently imposed vaccine mandate, which requires all municipal workers to have received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine by Nov. 1.
In a lawsuit filed in Staten Island, which is home to many police officers and has a vaccination rate that lags behind the citywide average, the Police Benevolent Association of New York said it opposed a vaccine mandate for police officers that does not allow the option of being tested weekly instead of being vaccinated.
The lawsuit also claimed the mandate — which the mayor announced last week — does not contain sufficient protections for those officers who might object to the vaccine because of their religious beliefs. Mayor Bill de Blasio has said the city will be “offering religious accommodation,” but that “valid religious exemptions” are rare.
While most lawsuits trying to stop government vaccine mandates in New York and elsewhere have so far failed to gain traction, some federal judges have appeared more sympathetic to suits that narrowly attack vaccine mandates for failing to accommodate religious beliefs.
Police unions across the country, from Chicago to Washington State, are urging members to resist Covid vaccine requirements — despite Covid being by far the most common cause of officer duty-related deaths this year and last, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page. More than four times as many officers have died from the virus as from gunfire in that period.
The New York police union’s lawsuit argues that the city did not give officers enough time to seek religious exemptions. Officers seeking exemptions are required to apply by Wednesday — one week after the mandate was announced — to avoid being placed on leave without pay.
The court papers also noted that coronavirus transmission was on the decline in New York and estimated that almost a third of the police force had been infected and recovered from the coronavirus. Those officers have natural immunity, the papers argued.
“Every effort to stop the city’s vaccine mandates has failed in court, and we believe this suit by the P.B.A. will meet the same fate,” the city’s Law Department said in a statement. “The city’s vaccine mandates are lawful and keep New Yorkers safe.”
As of last week, about 70 percent of employees of the New York Police Department had received at least one shot of coronavirus vaccine. The P.B.A., which represents rank-and-file officers, has been generally supportive of an earlier policy that had allowed unvaccinated officers to test weekly for the virus. The lawsuit claims that “test-or-vax” rule had been effective in protecting public safety.
The plaintiffs include nine officers from two precincts in Staten Island, the 120th and 122th.
The lawsuit was filed on a day when a large crowd of people — including many fire, police, and sanitation workers — marched in protest against the vaccine mandate. Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge to City Hall, some demonstrators carried large American flags and loudly chanted “We Will Not Comply.”
The post New York City’s biggest police union sues over the city’s vaccine mandate. appeared first on New York Times.