The union for St. Paul police officers filed a lawsuit over a COVID vaccine mandate that will be in place in the new year. The mandate does not allow for testing and masking as a substitute for getting vaccinated, however the city will allow medical and religious exemptions.
The union says it has petitioned the city for an alternative option but to no avail.
“We offered to negotiate the policy to include a testing option, but the city has not listened,” the union said in a statement.
St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter mandated in October that all city workers receive the COVID vaccine by the end of the year, announcing it in an unlisted YouTube video, saying, “As we continue fighting this virus in the days, weeks, and months ahead, to ensure everyone on Team St. Paul can continue serving our community, all of us must get vaccinated.”
Carter said in the video, “Since testing only provides a way to determine if someone has COVID after they’ve already contracted it, it offers no protection for an unvaccinated individual nor any individuals they interact with.”
A statement from the St. Paul Police Federation said, “We are not anti-vaccine, nor are we conspiracy theorists— we are reasonable and dedicated public servants who believe in personal choice. From day one, we’ve attempted to negotiate with city leadership to allow for a testing option for our unvaccinated employees, but the city has refused.”
The union estimates that around 20% of the St. Paul police force is unvaccinated, which would be around 100 officers. The St. Paul Police Federation said losing that many officers while the police force is so severely understaffed would be a mistake.
The police federation wrote, “We are already down 80 officers in a year where we’re experiencing record numbers of citizens being shot and homicides. We know that an inadequately staffed police force is a much greater danger to our community than 20% of our officers not being vaccinated.”
The Star Tribune reported that a spokesperson from Mayor Carter’s office said “unless a court orders otherwise, the requirement that all city workers be vaccinated by December 31 stands.”
“COVID is currently the leading cause of death among police officers in the United States,” Carter reportedly said in a statement. “We will do everything in our power to protect our employees and the public we serve from this deadly pandemic.”
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Hayley Feland is a reporter with The Minnesota Sun and The Wisconsin Daily Star | Star News Network. Follow Hayley on Twitter or like her Facebook page. Send news tips to [email protected].
Photo “St. Paul Police Squad Car” by St. Paul Police Federation.