L.A. County Sheriff: 30% of workforce "unavailable"

AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File

It turns out that it’s not just New York City hitting the panic button over shortages of first responders caused by municipal vaccine mandates. Out in Los Angeles, L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva sent out a warning over the weekend. With vaccine hesitancy remaining significant among his deputies and other Sheriff’s Department employees, he’s reporting that as many as 30% of his department’s workers are “no longer available” to provide essential services to the public. The county’s Sheriff’s Department has more than 100,000 employees, so that means that more than 30,000 workers are no longer on call in some of the highest crime neighborhoods in the state. So how does he propose to address this shortfall? That’s apparently up to the County Board of Supervisors who instituted the vaccination mandate because the Sheriff can’t just make that many vaccinated workers magically appear. (NY Post)

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is warning of an “imminent threat to public safety” and a “pandemic of chaos” because of staffing shortages caused by the city’s vaccine mandate.

Sheriff Alex Villanueva, who has said he won’t enforce the county’s order that took effect Oct. 1, said Thursday that up to 30 percent of the department’s 18,000 employees are “no longer available” to provide service following the Board of Supervisors mandate for all 110,000 employees.

“We are experiencing an increase in unscheduled retirements, worker compensation claims, employees quitting, and a reduction in qualified applicants,” Villanueva said in a statement obtained by The Post.

The Sheriff went on to warn that fewer law enforcement officers on the job will lead to longer emergency response times and a continued increase in homicides and other violent crimes. Solve rates will likely go down and there will be fewer arrests made. And just as we saw in New York City over the weekend, some patrol stations may need to be closed and consolidated with other precincts.

In his letter to the Board of Supervisors, Villanueva said that imposing a vaccine mandate now while new infection rates are dropping is like “putting up storm windows after the storm has passed.” He pointed out that all of his employees are still wearing masks and submitting to weekly testing. There is simply no rational excuse for either firing them or forcing them to take early retirement or quit just because they’ve chosen not to be vaccinated. The Board’s mandate also makes no allowance for employees who already survived COVID and presumably have some level of natural immunity already.

I assume that Villanueva sees some sort of bargaining advantage in applying this type of pressure to the Board of Supervisors. But that doesn’t mean that he’s bluffing, either. The New York City Fire Department certainly wasn’t bluffing when they issued a similar warning last week because they shut down 26 fire stations the next day. If Villanueva has to close dozens of Sherrif’s Department offices this week to make up for the loss of staffing, he’ll probably go ahead and do it.

Just to put this in perspective, Los Angeles County is currently seeing a homicide rate that is 44% higher than it was at the same time two years ago. Aggravated assaults are up 23% for the same period. The Sheriff’s Department has already lost more than 1,000 people in just the past month to early retirements and resignations. Nearly all of them cited the vaccine mandate as the primary reason for their departure.

So what will the Board of Supervisors do in response? Will they follow Bill de Blasio’s example in New York and simply thumb their noses at their law enforcement officers? And if so, will they be held accountable by the voters when increasing numbers of citizens fall victim to criminals because the remaining Deputies can’t keep a lid on all of the criminal activity? These situations simply boggle the mind and the madness is spreading to too many cities right now. This COVID fearmongering combined with a stubborn refusal to consider other options such as weekly testing may serve as a way to send a political message, but it fails to deliver the single most important duty of government at any level. They aren’t keeping their citizens safe. And someone needs to be held accountable.