NEW YORK—The New York City Police Department is doing everything in its power to convince its members to receive lifesaving COVID vaccine shots as the city’s mandate deadline looms — a cutoff that could send a quarter of the police force home without pay.
“We have to prepare as if this is going to go into effect Friday evening, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do,” Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said on NY1 Tuesday. “We have vaccines available throughout the city for our members.”
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Shea said that 72% of the NYPD has gotten at least one vaccination shot. The number should increase as Friday looms, Shea said. City employees not vaccinated by Friday will be sent home without pay.
“There is a separate caveat for members with special exemptions but we don’t believe that’s going to be a large number,” Shea said.
Opposition to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s mandate led to a massive protest in lower Manhattan Monday and a lawsuit filed by the Police Benevolent Association, which is trying to block the mandate from going into effect.
But Shea doesn’t think his members should wait and see if the lawsuit is successful. Previous legal challenges to a vaccine mandate brought by city Education Department staff have been shot down in court.
“Anyone at this point in time, unless something changes, will be put into a leave-without-pay status,” Shea said. “What I would urge is for people not to wait to the last moment to see what happens with the lawsuit or anything else. Get the vaccine.”
On Oct. 21, NYPD Transit Police Officer Marze Murray died from COVID complications — the 63rd NYPD member to die since the pandemic began.
“For no other reason than that, this is why I’ve been pushing these vaccines all along,” said Shea, who also came down with COVID and has since been vaccinated.
The NYPD is doing far better than the city Department of Sanitation, FDNY and Department of Correction, where vaccination rates are all below 63%. The Correction Department is faring the worst with only 52% of its members vaccinated.
“I don’t know how we got here,” Shea said.
“We even have nurses refusing to get vaccinated. I think people made this such a political issue during the 2020 elections and now it’s come home to roost. Wouldn’t it have ben a nicer situation if you had President [Donald] Trump and President-elect [Joe] Biden standing next to each other saying everyone has to get vaccinated right now? But we had it as a political issue and now it’s just festering in the time we’re in.”
“Vaccines have been around a long time,” he added. “They have been mandated in many ways for a long time. (Now) we’re going through this unnecessary pain and losing people.”
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