The Los Angeles Police Department has placed at least three employees on furlough who refused to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or comply with the city’s requirement to be tested weekly.
LAPD chief Michel Moore told police commissioners on Tuesday that the three — a pair of sworn officers and a civilian aide — were a small fraction of the thousands of department workers last week asked to sign agreements to follow the city’s vaccination mandate.
So far, LAPD supervisors have personally sent letters to 2,158 employees. That was out of about 3,600 they would receive.
“Our wish would be that all (the remaining) notices be served immediately,” Moore said.
LA City employees have until December to fully vaccinate. Under plans that have been fought with the city’s unions, workers with legitimate medical or religious reasons for not getting vaccinated will still need to be tested weekly. And they have to pay for the tests.
Moore said 2,239 LAPD employees had applied for such waivers, which are yet to be reviewed and approved by city officials.
On Tuesday, Moore and police commissioners said they were confident the mandate worked. The department’s vaccination rate now stands at 78%, with that percentage of employees having received at least one injection.
LAPD has approximately 9,500 sworn officers and 2,500 civilian personnel.
The surge in vaccinations among LAPD employees comes after the department appeared months behind other city agencies. In September, William Briggs, chairman of the police commission, sharply criticized officers who still had not been vaccinated.
He was much more cheerful on Tuesday.
“We’re taking steps — not steps — steps in the right direction,” Briggs said.
Moore said the department’s mobile vaccine clinic had shot at thousands of employees to date — at least 1,500 since the program launched in the summer in response to LAPD’s lagging vaccination coverage.
He said 429 employees have used the mobile clinics in the past week. That number included more than 170 officers and civilians who were vaccinated for the first time, and others who received their booster injections.
As of March 2020, at least 10 LAPD employees have died from COVID-19.
“We want to make sure that we don’t lose anyone (other than the virus),” Moore said, “and that they don’t lose their career over something that is emotionally charged.”
Of the three employees who refused, all were sent home, Moore said. They will face administrative hearings to determine whether they will keep their jobs.
LAPD has not identified the employees. But one, Mike McMahon, a 14-year veteran of the department, said in an Instagram video on Saturday that his gun and badge were taken last week after he refused to sign the deal.
“I left the captain’s office not too long ago,” he said. “I have refused everything. I was then relieved of my duty, handed back my gun, my badge, my police ID. All my police powers have been suspended and I have been sent home pending a Council of Rights, which will essentially be a charge of insubordination, ultimately resulting in my dismissal from the department.”
McMahon said he is part of a group of officers called Roll Call 4 Freedom, which is opposing mandates for city employees in LA. McMahon later appeared at a protest in Grand Park in downtown LA on Monday, where he spoke to a large group of vaccine opponents.
Union leaders said last week that officers who refuse to be vaccinated will not be prosecuted for insubordination. Instead, they will be judged on their suitability for the job, a less serious charge than insubordination. If they are found unfit and discharged, they can still return to the LAPD if they get vaccinated later.