Los Angeles County's Democratic Sheriff Alex Villanueva chimed in on the national debate over vaccine mandates in a letter to the LA County Board of Supervisors and press release issued Thursday.
Titled "IMMINENT THREAT TO PUBLIC SAFETY," Villanueva explains in detail what requiring vaccines — as mandated by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors — would mean for the Sheriff's Department and those who live and work within his jurisdiction.
Noting that his department "has already been 'defunded' by over one thousand positions," Villanueva called out the Board of Supervisors for being "the only board in the entire nation that has continued with last year's defund law enforcement movement."
"As of this week, homicide rates are up to 44 percent and aggravated assaults are up nearly 23 percent," Villanueva pointed out, adding that "despite the substantial loss of personnel, increase in workload, and rise in crime, I have been provided no additional resources by the Board, and you continue to defund my department and freeze my service budget."
"The Board’s vaccination mandate is causing a mass exodus within the Department, which is an absolutely absurd result," Villanueva noted before reminding he'd warned of such consequences before. "I have repeatedly stated the dangers to public safety when 20%-30% of my workforce is no longer available to provide service, and those dangers are quickly becoming a reality," he said. "We are experiencing an increase in unscheduled retirements, worker compensation claims, employees quitting, and a reduction in qualified applicants."
The vaccine mandate, Villanueva explained, "will cause patrol services to significantly decline" forcing him to "take drastic measures such as reducing services to the County and contract residents, which would cause the closure and realignment of patrol stations." In addition, the Sheriff's Department's specialized units like its Aero and Special Enforcement Bureaus and Headquarters Detectives would be nearly eliminated."
Because of the exodus from his department, Villanueva warns, "homicide rates will continue to rise, response times will increase, solve rates will diminish, arrests will decline, patrol services will significantly decline, and patrol stations will close."
Of those still with the LA County Sheriff's Department, Villanueva says the choice for many will be easy. "A large part of our workforce who is close to retirement finds it easier to simply retire, than be forced into a decision which should be a personal choice," he said. "Other personnel who were called 'heroes' for diligently working in service to the community during the pandemic, while other professions stayed home, have decided to finally get those surgeries they have been putting off for injuries sustained throughout their careers (knees, shoulders, back, etc.)."
"In the near future, unless something changes, the 'defunded' and 'de-staffed' Sheriff’s Department will no longer be able to sustain the staffing levels required to maintain public safety at the status quo," Villanueva warned again, adding his employees "already wear masks and would submit to routine COVID-19 testing, so termination makes no sense."
Addressing those critics who continually try to conflate opposition to vaccine mandates with being anti-vaccine or deniers of science, Villanueva set the record straight. "Personally, I am vaccinated and believe the vaccine works, but the choice to receive the vaccine is a personal one, and an individual who served the community tirelessly before there was a vaccine should not now be fired because they made a decision about their own body."
Ending with a call to action, Villanueva asked those in Los Angeles County who have an opinion on the mandate and its effects to "call the Board of Supervisors and voice it. With the pandemic diminishing, there is no justification for the Board mandate; it is like putting up the storm windows after the storm has passed."
"Unlike other County departments that can close their doors and merely cause an inconvenience to the general public, the Department operates 24/7 to protect the public," emphasized Villanueva. "I cannot afford to cut emergency services or choose not to send a patrol car to assist a community member in need," he added. "As the Sheriff, I can firmly tell you this mandate will create a pandemic of chaos within our county resulting in tragic losses."