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City of Portland Exempts Police From Vaccine Mandate

Last week, WW reported that the police union’s attorneys sent city officials a warning: If you mandate vaccines for law enforcement and first responders, they will resign in droves.

Officers with the Portland Police Bureau are exempt from the city’s vaccine mandate for city employees. The exemption was first reported by Oregon Public Broadcasting on Wednesday afternoon.

That’s because, according to OPB, the city’s attorney advised city leaders this week that a vaccine mandate could only apply to law enforcement and firefighters if there was already a state or federal mandate for those sectors. Oregon currently does not have a vaccine mandate for such workers.

Mayor Ted Wheeler expressed disappointment in a statement, saying that he is “still [strongly] encouraging police officers to get vaccinated.”

Last week, WW reported that the Portland Police Association, the union representing Portland’s police officers, was adamant that it would fight the Aug. 30 vaccine mandate for city employees. In an email obtained by WW, an attorney for the PPA warned city leaders the mandate would cause the resignation of police officers and emergency responders in droves.

“We also know that many first responders are deeply opposed to vaccine mandates; so deeply that some will leave the profession before accepting a mandate,” wrote PPA attorney Anil Karia in the email. “The city’s desire to mandate vaccinations for police and dispatch will ultimately exacerbate an already dangerous staffing crisis in PPB and [the Bureau of Emergency Communications].”

The city employee mandate requires that employees must be fully vaccinated or provide proof of a religious or medical exemption by Oct. 18, or they could be terminated.

Other city employee unions are likely to fight the vaccine mandate in the coming weeks.