Alex Villanueva, the Los Angeles County Sheriff, announced on Tuesday that his office will not force deputies to be vaccinated against the Chinese coronavirus, according to ABC News.
Sheriff Villanueva said that if he were to enforce such a mandate on his employees, it would lead to thousands of officers leaving the department, which in turn would make the county far more vulnerable to violent crime. He also said it would take years for him to replace the outgoing staff due to the requisite training and vetting process.
This announcement marks the latest instance of Villanueva defying strict COVID lockdown measures in favor of personal freedom for his employees and the county’s residents. In October, he said his office would not enforce mask mandates indoors, even though the county passed a mandate forcing both vaccinated and unvaccinated people to continue wearing masks inside private establishments.
Los Angeles County, the nation’s most populous county with over 10 million residents, ordered that all public employees either be fully vaccinated or get approved for a religious or medical exemption by October 1st. Currently about 77 percent of county employees have been fully vaccinated, including 70 percent of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). Conversely, only about 52 percent of the sheriff’s department deputies have been vaccinated. That leaves a current total of about 3,100 deputies and 1,000 civilian employees who are unvaccinated.
“So imagine what would happen,” Villanueva said in a recent press conference, “if every one of these was terminated. What would the department look like?”
Although the mandate threatens termination of public employees who do not get vaccinated, only Villanueva has the authority to fire anyone in the sheriff’s office. Nevertheless, he said that he expects hundreds of retirements or resignations from deputies who will step down out of protest of the mandate.
Villanueva’s decision was criticized by left-wing bureaucrats and Democratic officials in the county. Janice Hahn, one of the five members of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors which unanimously approved the vaccine mandate, falsely claimed that Villanueva is “putting both his deputies and the public they come face-to-face with every day at unnecessary risk.” Another member, Kathryn Barger, called his decision “unfortunate,” while Los Angeles International Airport’s Police Chief Cecil Rhambo, who is running against Villanueva in his upcoming re-election bid, claimed that “vaccines save lives,” and that “we must have a sheriff who will lead the department by enforcing the vaccine mandate.”