Mayor Bill de Blasio’s vaccine mandate might achieve what the “abolition of the police” crowd has been seeking: impede law enforcement.
George Floyd’s riots and anti-police policies and rhetoric decimated the ranks of the NYPD. Since June 2020, police have made fewer arrests (often under direct or tacit orders): NYPD arrests are down 27 percent, even as homicides rise 43 percent over the next 12 months.
Frustrated and mocked, many of the policemen simply left. More than 15 percent of uniformed NYPD officers have retired or resigned in the past year and a half. (The Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund study of 10 other major departments showed that resignations rose 24 percent and retirements 14 percent over that period.)
However, government officials such as de Blasio and President Joe Biden appear determined to fire more veteran officers. Just last week, Biden said law enforcement officers who won’t get vaccinated (or report their situation) should either be forced to stay home or left. He appears to be completely oblivious to the costs of expanding the police recruitment crisis.
In this hostile political climate, the NYPD effectively struggled to recruit new officers. The force is now less than 2,000 officers at its 2019 levels, and they are needed more than ever.
(For comparison, Governor Ron DeSantis is trying to make the Big Apple’s loss into Florida’s gain — wooing disaffected and soon-to-be fired cops with $5,000 signing bonuses to move to the Sunshine State.)
This week, New York became ground zero in that battle, as the NYPD’s largest union, the 24,000-member Police Charity Association, filed a lawsuit to block de Blasio’s vaccine mandate, which is set to go into effect Friday.
The union noted that the city has offered police the option of “test or appeal” until October 20, giving policemen just nine days to comply with only Vax’s requirement. As of Wednesday, thousands of sworn NYPD officers have not been vaccinated or reported their condition — and could be given leave for noncompliance.
“City employees have a responsibility to keep you and your community safe,” the mayor said. But how will keeping cops out of action stem escalating violence, solve crimes, or reassure travelers and volatile businesses to return?
The exodus of the police would be a disaster of epic and bloody proportions. Decreased police numbers surely mean more murders in New York City and across the country.
Let’s be clear: I’ve been vaccinated, and I’d recommend everyone — including law enforcement — to do the same.
But these states are shortsighted and bad science. For one thing, the risk of COVID-19, especially in New York, has been greatly reduced. As of Wednesday, the seven-day average daily number of confirmed cases was just 614. It is clear that the epidemic is fading away.
Meanwhile, mitigation measures (which have been in place for a year and a half), including wearing masks, social distancing, ventilation and frequent testing, can easily be taken to slow transmission of the virus. Evidence also shows that those who contracted and recovered from Covid disease developed natural immunity, which can be stronger than the vaccine itself.
The state’s meager public health benefits are clearly outweighed by its costs – not just on public safety but on the personal liberty and religious rights of the police. The truth is, for whatever reason, some officers view the vaccine as a burden, a risk, or simply unnecessary. Agree with their judgment or not, forcing them to have a purge, or being fired or furloughed if they don’t, will impose a cost.
And remember: No police officer had been vaccinated before this year – no one was vaccinated. However, they are still doing their job. In fact, they were among the few professionals who continued to come to work to protect the public at great personal risk. their reward? Compulsory vaccination under the weight of separation.
This mandate-first, last and only approach belies the public’s trust in officers to make tough—and sometimes life or death—decisions every single day. But now they see that their leaders do not believe in their judgments. The officials’ underestimation of the police will only increase their morale, and the unwise mandate will cause more policemen to hand over their badges. The public will pay the price.
Jason Johnson, a former deputy commissioner of the Baltimore Police Department, and head of the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund.