Column: Hey LAPD: The job is to serve and protect, not serve and infect.

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti holds a vial of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.
Mayor Eric Garcetti holds a vial of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at an inoculation site for Los Angeles Fire Department personnel in December.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

I hate how the word “optics” has become so overused, as in, “oh, that makes for really bad optics.” But that’s not going to keep me from using it here today.

For all the Los Angeles cops and firefighters who’ve been screaming about the COVID-19 vaccination mandate, arguing that they don’t want or need to get needled, this week’s news of workplace coronavirus outbreaks makes for really, really bad optics.

Since the pandemic began, according to L.A. County data dug up by my colleague Kevin Rector, the Los Angeles Police Department has had 37 outbreaks that included 1,061 cases, and the Los Angeles Fire Department has had 75 outbreaks and 553 cases. In other words, the places of greatest resistance are COVID-19 hot spots.


Might the freedom fighters climb out of their foxholes, connect the dots and reverse course?

I wouldn’t bet on it. Logic, science and consideration of others hasn’t mattered before now, and I’m not expecting any transformations.

The resistance is “still hanging on” to the “firefighters for freedom” cause, one frustrated, vaccinated firefighter told me. And the resisters, he said, aren’t open to opposing views.

Los Angeles County health officials have identified hundreds of coronavirus outbreaks at police and fire agencies since the start of the pandemic, according to county data.

Sept. 26, 2021

Not even when the consequences are shameful.

The LAPD and LAFD cases account for more than half of the 2,500 coronavirus cases at public safety agencies in Los Angeles County, Rector reported. The county Fire Department has had 44 outbreaks and 211 cases, and the county Sheriff’s Department has had 18 outbreaks and 334 cases.

Meanwhile, other public safety agencies in California and beyond have had their own outbreaks of resistance.

The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that in a survey of the city’s Police Officers Assn. members, 90% said they opposed a mandate, 65% would consider quitting if forced to vaccinate, and 45% would rather be fired than vaccinated.


You know what I think?

When you work for taxpayers as a first responder, personal freedom is trumped by public duty. The job is to serve and protect, not serve and infect. And we may never know how many people in the general public, and the families of cops and firefighters, have become sick or died because the public safety officers refused to get vaccinated.

Science is not on their side, and neither are statistics. The hospitals are not filled with people suffering harmful side effects of vaccine. They’re filled with people who refused to take it. And now we’ve got NBA stars, among others, who think they’re scientists. (Suspend them, I say, without pay, and use their salaries to fund a vaccine education fund that lays out the facts and puts the distortions on the bench.)

And by the way, for cops, firefighters and others who have no faith in American medical experts, why do they race to the nearest hospital when they take seriously ill?

“COVID is the #1 killer of [law enforcement officers] in 2020 and 2021,” says the Officer Down Memorial Page. “Getting vaccinated is just as important as wearing your vest and your seatbelt.”

Makes perfect sense. But the freedom fighters keep cranking out nonsense. In a plea for donations to a legal fund from — Firefighters for Liberty, the resisters argue there is “a right to choose what goes into your own body, and the right to exercise informed consent regarding experimental medicines such as the Covid vaccines.”

They are no longer experimental medicines. They are tested and proven. They are saving lives.


That same site argues that “this is not a vaccine versus non-vaccine issue. … This is a human rights issue.”

Exactly. It’s about the human rights of those who could easily be protected by those who swore an oath to serve those in peril, in crisis and in need.

It’s about the human rights of those who could safely return to school and work, who could move on with their lives rather than have the threat of illness and death hanging over everyone because of those who are so misguided they can’t distinguish between courage and cowardice.

“We aren’t afraid of pursuits or wrestling with third-striker parolees,” one frustrated local law enforcement officer told me, “but half of my department is scared of a perfectly safe and effective scientific miracle.”

That same officer said that “almost everyone at my department refuses to wear masks indoors” and “supervisors won’t do anything to enforce the mandate because they don’t agree with it.”

As a condition of employment, LAPD officers have to be vaccinated against measles, tetanus, hepatitis b, diphtheria, rubella and other diseases. Do they really trust all of those vaccines and not the COVID vaccine, or are they merely making a political statement?


If so, it’s not going over all that well.

“Last Thursday,” a reader named Alysia said in an email, “the assisted living facility where my 101-year-old mother lives called me to report that she has shortness of breath and her oxygen fell to 88%. Should they call the paramedics?”

The president of the civilian panel that oversees the LAPD strongly denounces the resistance to COVID-19 vaccinations among officers.

Sept. 28, 2021

Alysia didn’t have to think long.

“I immediately said NO! They’re not vaccinated. We’ll take her … to urgent care … ourselves,” Alysia said. “I feel like the public now needs to post a sign on the front door if we do call 911 saying ONLY VACCINATED PEOPLE ALLOWED INSIDE THIS HOUSE.”

If it’s reached this point, it says something about not just the resistance, but about the lack of authoritative leadership in public safety agencies and the failure of public officials to bring the ranks into line in the midst of a national health emergency.

As I said in my last column on this topic, L.A. city officials say they’re in talks to determine what consequences there will be for those who are sworn to protect the public but are instead putting themselves, their colleagues, their families and the public at greater risk.

One firefighter I’m in contact with had this to say about that: “My view is, the city pays me. They make the rules and it’s my personal choice if I want to follow the rules.”

For those who quit, he said, or get fired: “Good riddance.”