After months in limbo, an unknown number of NYPD officers received final notices last week denying their requests for religious or medical exemptions to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for city municipal employees.
According to emails obtained by Gothamist, they were warned that if they didn’t get vaccinated within 10 days they would be fired — although some have found ways to buy more time before facing the decision of whether to get a shot or leave their jobs.
Two officers who spoke to Gothamist said their initial requests for religious exemptions were denied late last year, and that these most recent notices were in response to their appeals. They said they knew of other officers who had received notices the same day — but that some of their colleagues were still awaiting determinations. They were left wondering why the decisions are coming in waves, rather than all at once.
An NYPD spokesperson said that 90% of the department’s 51,776 uniformed and non-uniformed employees are currently vaccinated — meaning that more than 5,000 are not.
The NYPD filed the most exemption requests of any city agency by far after former Mayor Bill de Blasio announced last year that city workers would have to show proof of vaccination by Oct. 29. NYPD employees had filed 6,170 requests for religious or medical exemptions as of November, according to city data – a figure that represented 11% of the department’s workforce and was at least three times the number of requests filed by any other agency.
But the fate of all those exemption requests and the officers who filed them has been shrouded in secrecy. Since these latest notices were sent out, the administration under Mayor Eric Adams has not responded to repeated requests for information about how many exemption requests have been approved or denied so far or how many officers received determinations in this cohort. The mayor’s office also did not provide a current breakdown of vaccination rates by agency, as it had done in the past.
In February, the city fired 36 NYPD employees, along with about 1,400 other municipal workers, for refusing the vaccine outright. NYPD employees who have been awaiting decisions on their exemption requests have been allowed to go to work as long as they get tested weekly.
The initial notices sent out April 12 from the Department of Citywide Administrative Services said officers had seven days to show proof of vaccination or they would be placed on unpaid leave. Subsequent notices sent out by the Mayor’s Executive Order Leave Desk informed officers they had until Friday to get vaccinated or they would be fired.
A detective who has been on the force for 10 years finally decided to get vaccinated last Friday after finding out his request for a religious exemption was denied. The officer, who declined to provide his name because he’s not authorized to speak to the press, said the notice came shortly after he discovered his wife was pregnant, which influenced his decision-making process.
“This is a situation where I have to disregard my beliefs in order to get a paycheck, and it doesn’t sit well with me,” the detective said last week, before he made the decision.
After getting his shot, the officer said he said he felt “as violated as a man can feel,” but admitted that, physically, he felt fine.
“I’m not into the whole conspiracy thing,” he said, referring to some unfounded theories that have circulated about the dangers of the vaccines.
A sergeant who spoke to Gothamist about the notice, also on the condition of anonymity because his employment status is still in limbo, decided to go a different route. He filed his paperwork to retire early, which could allow him to hold onto part of his pension — something he said other officers who want to remain unvaccinated are opting to do instead of getting fired and leaving money on the table. He said he hoped that by the time his early retirement was finalized, the city might change its policy on the vaccine mandate.
Public and private mandates have driven up vaccination rates in New York in the past, but uptake has slowed in recent months. City health department data shows that unvaccinated people are still more likely to contract COVID-19, be hospitalized because of it and die.
The notices sent out last week come in the wake of Adams’ decision to lift the vaccine mandate for professional athletes and performers, which sparked backlash from public sector unions, including the Police Benevolent Association.
Source : https://gothamist.com/news/unvaccinated-nypd-officers-get-final-ultimatum-after-exemption-requests-are-denied