Weighing Vaccine Mandates & The Risk Covid-19 Poses to Law Enforcement

NPSF - Op Ed Simon Lewis

From Seattle to Phoenix to Chicago and many smaller cities in between, law enforcement officers are being required to get the Covid-19 vaccine. Many are resisting and pushing back. Vaccine mandates unfortunately appear to be a trend across the country. As portions of the country remain locked down and COVID protocols continue to evolve and dictate so many aspects of our lives, we have to remember that law enforcement doesn’t stop.

Despite the risks, law enforcement officers continue to work, day after day, out in the community, interacting with the population, responding to emergencies, and engaging with citizens. While lockdowns implemented at the onset of the pandemic led to a reduction in certain categories of crime, there was an uptick of calls to police for others.

One of the unfortunate and tragic results of Covid-19 related lockdowns was an increase in domestic violence calls fielded by police in 2020. As noted by The Conversation, a study conducted by The National Commission on Covid-19 and Criminal Justice found “that in the United States, domestic violence incidents increased 8.1% on average following stay-at-home orders.” The study also found increased rates of robbery, aggravated assault, and murder which all increased dramatically in many cities, notably after the death of George Floyd in May of 2020.

These were the unanticipated consequences of locking down society at the height of Covid-19 in 2020. The net result was the higher risk profile for police officers engaging with the community faced from Covid-19 compared to much of the country. And the virus has exacted a heavy toll on our nation’s police.

The National Law Enforcement Memorial and Museum releases an annual report on the line of duty deaths sustained by our nation’s LEOs. This year’s report was sobering. The organization’s preliminary toll for 2021 was 458 law enforcement officers dead, a shocking 55% increase from 2020, and the second year in a row that Covid-19 was the leading cause of death for law enforcement officers. In total, 301 officers have been reported as dying from Covid-19 around the country in 2021. Comparatively, approximately 256 officers were reported dead from the virus in 2020.

To combat this additional risk to officer safety, I would urge department leadership to set the standard and provide sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE) like nitrile gloves, effective masks, as well as provide easy-to-understand information and resources for their departments so each officer can make the right decision for themselves and their families

I’d also recommend officers to get vaccinated! It’s been proven safe and effective, and it will protect not only the officers and the citizens they interact with, but also everyone else they come in contact with throughout the day. It also lends credibility to the vaccine and encourages others to get vaccinated as well.

How has the rise of social media, public resentment/sentiment, civil disobedience, and civil disturbance evolved? The problems police experience today have not differed since policing started. The presence of social media has had an adverse effect on policing due to the mob mentality.

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