Survey: Many San Diego Officers Would Quit over Vaccine Mandate

Sept. 10, 2021
About 45% of San Diego officers said they would rather be fired than comply with a mandate, according to a survey by the police union.

Editor's note: Find Officer.com's complete coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic here.

SAN DIEGO — About 90% of San Diego police officers who responded to a recent survey said they oppose COVID-19 vaccine mandates, and 65% of them said they would consider quitting the force if the city were to impose a requirement.

About 45% said they would rather be fired than comply with a mandate, according to the survey, which was conducted in the past week by the San Diego Police Officers Association.

According to the union, 733 members — about 38% of the officers the association represents — responded to the survey. Less than 1% of the officers who took the survey said they had no stance on vaccine mandates; 8% said they were undecided as to whether they would quit if the city required vaccines, and 23% said they were undecided about whether they would rather be fired than comply with a mandate.

The results, which were shared with union members late Wednesday in an email obtained by The San Diego Union-Tribune, came as the police union — under pressure from some members — was pushing back against the city’s decision to require its employees to be fully vaccinated by Nov. 2.

As of late last month, roughly half of the Police Department’s 1,971 officers said they remained unvaccinated.

The union shared the results of the survey with the mayor’s office and “reiterated our line in the sand against mandatory vaccinations,” the union’s email to members read. “The SDPOA will not agree to mandatory vaccinations.”

The union suggested the city was reconsidering its deadline and weighing a second option: regular testing for its employees. The mayor’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Jack Schaeffer, president of the police union, said he expected the city to announce an update Friday.

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden on Thursday announced that employees at companies with 100 or more workers will have to be vaccinated or undergo weekly testing.

Schaeffer welcomed that news, saying the union supports a setup where employees can choose between getting vaccinated or submitting to regular testing.

“What we’re looking for is options,” he said.

Schaeffer said about 400 to 500 members usually respond to the union’s surveys. He said the response to the recent survey was telling.

“That means a lot of (members) are concerned about the topic,” he said.

Some officers have told The San Diego Union-Tribune they are skeptical of the notion that fellow officers would quit or risk being fired rather than comply with a vaccine mandate.

For Schaeffer, that possibility is a major issue, he said.

“The main thing is I’m extremely concerned because over the last three or four years we’ve worked really hard along with the department to try to bring our numbers up,” he said, referring to hiring efforts. “We’ve been successful in getting more officers. I don’t want now to lose a whole bunch now at one time because of this issue.”

He acknowledged that some officers likely would not follow through and leave the job because of the vaccine mandate. But, he added, “I don’t know that (city leaders) want to take a chance.”

The city’s mandate allows for employees to apply for a religious or medical exemption, but the city was working with labor leaders on the details of how the exemptions will work.

As with some law enforcement agencies across the country, the topic of vaccine and mask mandates has stirred up mixed emotions — including strong pushback — within the San Diego Police Department. Last month, the department launched an investigation into an online post in which an officer said he and another department employee were “building up a coalition of cops who will stand up for our God given freedoms and are willing to risk it all.”

“From this point forward we will never take the vaccine, be tested or wear another face diaper around our heads without our free will to make that choice,” the post said. “Our coalition is growing by the day, and if the Department and City are willing to fire 100-500 cops, then so be it.”

The post ended with the acronym “WWG1WGA,” presumably for the motto “where we go one, we go all” — a phrase often associated with QAnon conspiracy theories.

The department said it would hold employees accountable for any internal policy violations, and encouraged employees to get vaccinated.

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©2021 The San Diego Union-Tribune.

Visit sandiegouniontribune.com.

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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