Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva on Tuesday called the region’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate “arbitrary” and argued that terminations due to refusals to get inoculated could lead to public safety issues.
During a news conference that the department teased as being about the “imminent threat to public safety,” the sheriff said the county’s mandate has already led to early retirements.
Under the mandate, issued by an executive order in August, county employees had to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 1. It does allow for religious and medical exemptions, but employees have to upload proof of their vaccination status or submit a request for legal exemption.
Villanueva argued that the L.A. County Board of Supervisors made the decision to impose the mandate without consulting him and without thinking about the repercussions.
“There’s only one county that’s trying to defund and destaff the Sheriff’s Department. That’s Los Angeles County,” Villanueva said. “They have a very weird group of people that are in charge … they worship at the altar of ‘wokeism.’”
According to department figures, about 43% of sworn staff are fully vaccinated and have used the county’s system to verify their status, while 67% of professional staff are.
Villanueva said that means up to 4,185 members of his department would be subject to termination or could walk off the job because of the county’s vaccine mandate.
He added that fewer staff could be “catastrophic” for the department amid rising crime rates and an ongoing homeless crisis.
Specifically, he argued that homicides and response times would increase and there would be less deputies on the street.
The sheriff, who is fully vaccinated, has expressed that he won’t enforce the mandate in his department, and previously called it “absolutely absurd.“