- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 28, 2021

New York City police unions are warning that thousands of officers will be pulled from patrol due to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s coronavirus vaccine mandate.

As of Thursday morning, leaders of five police unions said there are approximately 10,000 unvaccinated officers — almost a third of the 36,000-strong New York Police Department — who will not be allowed to work on Monday unless they apply for a religious or medical exemption from the mandate.

“New Yorkers need to wake up,” said Vincent Vallelong, president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association. “Mayor Bill de Blasio’s mandate is ‘Defund the Police’ in disguise. Criminals know this, and they will take full advantage of the situation to create chaos on our streets.”

In a joint press release, the union leaders said the city has no plan to deal with the potential officer shortage that would affect dozens of patrol precincts.

NYPD brass is completely unprepared for the staffing shortage that will result from the mandate’s haphazard implementation,” they said.

Of the department‘s 36,000 officers and 19,000 civilian staffers, at least 73% were vaccinated as of Thursday.

Lou Turco, president of the Lieutenants Benevolent Association, said “Many members believe that Mayor de Blasio is creating chaos on purpose to coerce them into getting the shot.”

The unions’ warning comes the day after a Staten Island Supreme Court judge denied the Police Benevolent Association’s request for a temporary restraining order to block the mandate for officers while its lawsuit challenging the mayor’s order plays out.

PBA President Patrick Lynch said the union is planning to appeal the judge’s ruling.

“The city cannot afford to have a police department that is weak, disorganized and totally dominated by the irrational whims of City Hall,” he said. 

NYC is the nation’s largest city with more than 8.8 million residents, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau data.

In the lawsuit filed on Monday, PBA claims city officials are violating police officers’ rights under the New York State Constitution because they have failed to show a compelling reason for the mandate and that it was achieved by the least restrictive means.

The association argues NYPD’s “vax or test” program, in which unvaccinated officers must undergo weekly tests, is sufficient to protect officers from spreading the virus.

Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat, went on MSNBC to announce the mandate last Wednesday and said the vaccinate-or-test option “hasn’t gotten us where we need to go.”

“So, we say vaccinate, if you choose not to, you have the right to go on unpaid leave,” he said. “We’re going to work with your union to figure out what happens next. But the bottom line is we’re not going to pay people unless they’re vaccinated.”

Paul DiGiacomo, president of the Detectives’ Endowment Association, said Thursday that the mayor’s mandate is “needless, self-serving and politically motivated.”

“While New York City is in the middle of a crime crisis, Mayor Bill de Blasio wants to sideline hundreds of detectives just to play politics,” Mr. DiGiacomo said. “City Hall will once again turn its back on crime victims as investigations will ultimately be stalled and violent offenders will go freed.”

The Captains Endowment Association also joined in on the joint press release.

An NYPD spokesman told The Washington Times on Thursday “We will be prepared for any changes in personnel due to the mandate.”

He added that at least 76% of the department‘s 36,000 officers and 19,000 civilian staffers are vaccinated.

The Washington Times sent a request for comment on Thursday to Mr. de Blasio.

• Emily Zantow can be reached at ezantow@washingtontimes.com.

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