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L.A. County Sheriff: We won't be enforcing the vaccine mandate

Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department via AP

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti may have more than a public relations problem on his hands. Back in August, well before he issued one of the more draconian vaccine mandates and immunity passport plans in the country this week, he mandated that municipal employees be vaccinated by October 1st. That deadline has now come and gone, but a significant player in the public sector is causing him some headaches. Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva has looked over the situation and determined that he won’t be enforcing a vaccination mandate on his deputies. (The County also had a similar mandate issued by executive order around the same time Garcetti issued his, and the city falls inside of L.A. County, so there is occasionally some butting of heads between the two governments.) That’s not exactly the sort of unified front that Garcetti and the County Board of Supervisors were looking for. (Associated Press)

The Los Angeles County sheriff says he will not enforce the county’s vaccine mandate in his agency.

Sheriff Alex Villanueva, who oversees the largest sheriff’s department in the county with roughly 18,000 employees, said Thursday in a Facebook Live event that he does not plan to carry out the county’s mandate, under which Los Angeles County employees had to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 1.

The mandate was issued by executive order in August and allows only for religious and medical exemptions. Villanueva said his employees are willing to be terminated rather than get vaccinated.

Villanueva’s reasoning seems fairly simple. He says that he doesn’t want to lose five to ten percent of his workforce overnight because of a vaccine mandate. And with nearly 80% of eligible county residents having already received at least one shot of the vaccine, he’s not terribly worried about it. The county is averaging 14 COVID deaths per day, which is vastly below the rates they were registering in August. The hospitals aren’t exactly being overrun either.

The problem here is that while Garcetti is the one making all of the headlines, Villaneuva doesn’t report to him. He works for the county, not the city. And if the Sheriff won’t fire the unvaccinated deputies, who is going to do the dirty work?

I suppose he could be called into the office for a chat by County Chief Executive Officer Fesia Davenport or the Board of Supervisors. But their options for forcing him into compliance are limited. The position of Sheriff is an elected office. Villaneuva has made plenty of enemies since taking the position and there have been public discussions about removing him before. But short of impeachment or a recall, there isn’t much to be done about it, or so it seems.

For his part, the Sheriff says that too many of his deputies would rather lose their jobs than get the shots. And he blames local elected officials for putting them in this position. (CBS News)

“When a decision must be made between responding to a violent felony in progress or serving as the ‘vaccine mandate police,’ the choice is simple,” he tweeted. “The Department will continue requiring all of our employees to register with the Fulgent system but will only seek voluntary compliance and testing for the unvaccinated.”

This will be one more thing for the Sheriff’s critics to toss on the pile of complaints they are constantly raising. In the meanwhile, the Sheriff probably has enough on his plate already. Just this week, one of his deputies was filmed slamming a 16-year-old girl to the floor inside of a school for refusing to turn over her phone to him. That video quickly went viral, so a new round of protests is no doubt on the way.