SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — In a survey of more than 700 members of the San Diego Police Officers Association, the majority of those who responded said they don't believe the COVID-19 vaccine should be mandated.
A copy of the survey shared to union members on Wednesday and obtained by ABC 10News showed about 91% (667) of the 733 respondents believe "vaccines should be a choice by each individual officer," when asked if the City of San Diego should make the COVID-19 vaccine a condition of employment.
Only 60 of the 733 respondents said it should be mandated for employment and six were undecided.
Respondents were more split when asked "would you choose to be terminated rather than obey a city/departmental mandatory vaccination order?" To that, 333 respondents (45%) said they'd rather be fired, while 226 (31%) said they wouldn't. The other 174 (24%) were undecided.
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The overwhelming majority of those surveyed, however, said they would consider leaving the San Diego Police Department if vaccines were mandated by the city, with 479 (65%) saying they would consider quitting.
“Polls don’t dictate our policies. We want to protect our public safety officers and the public," said Courtney Pittam, Press Secretary for the Office of Mayor Todd Gloria.
Jack Schaeffer, president of the SDPOA, said the survey represents about 38% of its members. He said that usually, they receive about 400 to 500 responses to a survey, showing how concerned members are about the issue.
"Regardless of where you are on this whole issue, it just seems like there should be something other than either have your vaccination or go get another job," Schaeffer said.
The results were shared one day before President Joe Biden announced a federal vaccine policy that will require employers with 100 or more workers to mandate the COVID-19 or weekly virus testing. Last month, the City of San Diego also announced that all of its workers would be required to be fully vaccinated by Nov. 2, "as a condition of continued employment."
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Schaeffer said they are still in negotiations with the city on how the mandate could impact SDPD. He added that he worries a possible mandate could reverse recent efforts to build up the department's staffing.
"We’re trying to make it so we’re not any more punitive than any of our competition, the department and the POA has really worked hard over the last three or four years to try to build our numbers up from where they were which was abysmal, and we weren’t able to staff effectively with what we had," said Schaeffer. "If our competition around us, the Sheriff’s Department, Riverside County, places like that, have rules that are you know, easier to follow for everybody and there are options that could likely happen where people just decide, 'well I’ll just go somewhere else.'"
Schaeffer said the union's goal is to make sure options are available to officers.
"I think that as long as we’re having people being tested, we know there’s not going to be a big outbreak, I think we’re doing the right thing. I think there’s a middle ground we could reach where at least the vast majority will be OK with it, it’s a workable thing," he said.
The survey's results strike a similar chord to an online post reportedly made by an SDPD Sergeant recently, which said “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. There’s no compromise whatsoever for any of those restrictions," according to images shared on the NAACP’s website, which is calling for Mayor Todd Gloria's office to investigate.
ABC 10News has not independently verified the reported post, but a statement by a department spokesperson said:
“The San Diego Police Department is aware of the social media comment posted by an SDPD member regarding COVID-19 vaccinations. This post was made by one individual. SDPD currently employs approximately 1,950 sworn members and always encourages safe workplace practices. SDPD is reviewing this as a personnel matter to determine if the officer violated department policy. SDPD holds its members to the highest standards. Any department member found to be in violation of SDPD’s policies or procedures will be held accountable. SDPD strongly encourages all of its members to get vaccinated and continues to make COVID-19 vaccine readily available.”