Denver will "discipline" unvaccinated first responders

Denver will "discipline" unvaccinated first responders
(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

If you’re a policeman, fireman, or EMT working in the city of Denver, Colorado, you’ll probably want to get your CDC vaccination card laminated and ready in the next few weeks. And if you don’t have one, you’ll probably want to get hold of one by hook or by crook. Why? Because the executive director of the Department of Public Safety put out a statement this week directing all first responders to be fully vaccinated by September 15 or face the possibility of “discipline.” This order comes with some significant challenges for the city, but it was apparently prompted by an unofficial, internal poll showing that more than half of the city’s police officers were still unvaccinated. This led Public Safety Director Murphy Robinson to leap into action, threatening to bring down the ban hammer on the non-compliant. The police unions and other organizations representing the various groups of first responders have been less than enthusiastic about the mandate. (Associated Press)

Denver’s top public safety leader says he is prepared to discipline police officers, sheriff’s deputies and firefighters who don’t follow the mandate that all city employees get vaccinated against COVID-19, The Denver Post reports Saturday.

A public health order issued by the city health department Monday requires all city employees to receive their second vaccine dose by Sept. 15.

It’s unclear how many of Denver’s police officers or emergency responders have been vaccinated as the city does not keep track.

The AP didn’t offer any details as to what sort of “discipline” Robinson is planning, but the Denver Post dug a little deeper and prompted a response. Robinson is quoted as saying that he is “prepared to fire” any members of the Police Department, the Sheriff’s Department, or even the Fire Department who are not in compliance.

That’s going to be a tricky proposition for the city, however. First of all, as the AP notes, they have no idea how many of the cops, Sheriff’s deputies, and firefighters are vaccinated. It was Murphy Robinson himself who made the decision not to track that data when the vaccines first became available. He says that, at the time, he “trusted employees to make the right decisions.” The local police union appeared to throw those words back in his face this week when they put out a statement rejecting the mandate. The statement said that the union “respects and trusts our members with their own choices on how to maintain their health, the health of their families, and the health, safety, and welfare of the citizens of Denver.”

There are also serious questions about the poll I mentioned above showing the low number of police officers who are vaccinated. The Denver Police Protective Association conducted the survey, which they themselves describe as being “informal and unscientific.” They went on to say that the leaked poll had never been publicly released because the results were “so far away from reality.” Fewer than half of the members participated in the survey and there was no way to track the results. So the number of unvaccinated police officers could be rather typical or wildly off the curve. There’s no way to know.

I’m old enough to remember when the first responders were being referred to as heroes because they were out there risking their lives on a daily basis, even in the midst of a pandemic. Apparently, those days have passed. But it’s also worth noting that the Denver Police Department (like so many others around the country) is having trouble attracting and keeping police officers in today’s anti-cop climate. Is this really a good time to threaten to fire up to half of them simply because you disagree with their personal healthcare choices?

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