Judge denies L.A. police union’s request to block vaccine mandate
A judge on Wednesday denied the Los Angeles police union‘s request that he block the city’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate for police officers from taking effect.
Having rejected the L.A. Police Protective League’s petition for a temporary restraining order, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Mitchell L. Beckloff must still rule on a related request for a preliminary injunction, which would halt the mandate for officers while a lawsuit the union filed against the city over the rollout of the vaccine requirement goes forward. A court hearing on the injunction is scheduled for next month.
The judge did not explain the reasoning for his decision in court records available online Thursday.
Under the city’s mandate, all city employees including police officers must be fully vaccinated by Dec. 18 unless they are granted a medical or religious exemption, and agreed in the run-up to the deadline to submit to regular coronavirus testing if they are unvaccinated. The union negotiated the terms of the deal with city officials but later sued over its rollout, alleging the city negotiated in bad faith, preemptively concluded negotiations and inappropriately passed on costs for testing to officers.
City officials have denied the claims, saying the mandate adheres to labor laws on collective bargaining. The city, they argue, had no choice but to move forward with the vaccine and testing requirement given the ongoing emergency posed by COVID-19 and the need to protect city employees and the people with whom they come in contact.
Last week, Los Angeles police commanders began delivering notices to unvaccinated officers and civilian Police Department employees informing them that, under the mandate, they must immediately start paying for the required tests until they are vaccinated or receive a medical or religious exemption.
The city is considering exemption claims from more than 2,000 LAPD employees. Those employees received notices along with more than 1,000 others who were neither vaccinated nor seeking an exemption. Officials said this week that about 78% of department personnel are at least partially vaccinated.
As of Tuesday, only three LAPD employees had refused to sign the notices to acknowledge the terms of the mandate, leading to their being assigned to their homes pending disciplinary proceedings.
In its argument for a restraining order, the police union said that officers would suffer “irreparable harm” if the mandate was not halted and that the city’s claims of an emergency were baseless.
The union said “there is no imminent threat to public health and safety or workplace safety posed by permitting unvaccinated masked peace officers to continue to interact with the public and other city employees as they have done for nearly 1½ years of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
More than 3,200 of about 12,150 LAPD personnel have fallen ill with COVID-19, and 11 have died. Dozens were at home ill and quarantining as of this week, and one was in serious condition in the hospital. Police critics have routinely captured videos of officers not wearing masks in the field and in police stations.
The union also repeated allegations that the company the city hired to administer the tests that unvaccinated officers must take — which is co-owned by Fire and Police Pension Commissioner Pedram Salimpour — was inappropriately chosen and represented “conflicts of interest at best.” The city and Salimpour have both denied any impropriety.
The allegations of a conflict of interest were a “red herring,” city lawyers wrote in court papers.
They also said the union’s request for a restraining order was improper on technical grounds because it had failed to first seek a resolution through the city’s Employee Relations Board and had not properly notified the city of its lawsuit.
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