Thousands of Los Angeles Police Department employees are planning to seek exemptions from getting vaccinated against the coronavirus after a group of police officials filed a federal lawsuit against the city over its vaccine and mask mandate.

Roughly 3,000 LAPD employees are expected to seek either religious or medical exemptions ahead of the city’s Oct. 5 deadline for municipal employees to be vaccinated, according to figures released by the city Tuesday obtained by The Washington Post. The vast majority of them are filing for religious exemptions. If those numbers hold up, nearly a quarter of the LAPD workforce will try to avoid vaccination.

The news was first reported by the Los Angeles Times and KNBC.

The development follows the federal lawsuit recently filed by six LAPD employees against the city, Mayor Eric Garcetti (D) and LAPD Chief Michel Moore, saying the vaccine and mask mandate for city employees violates their constitutional right to privacy and due process. The suit, filed Saturday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, says that some employees involved in the litigation “could not assert a medical or religious exemption,” while others claim they have acquired antibodies from previous covid-19 infection.

Nonexempt employees must be vaccinated by Oct. 19 as a condition of employment.

The police department did not immediately respond to a request for comment early Wednesday. In a statement to The Post, Garcetti said that the city’s policy “allows for medical and religious exemptions to protect certain workers’ health and constitutional rights,” and that he would not stand for LAPD employees abusing the policy.

“We will not tolerate the abuse of these exemptions by those who simply don’t want to get vaccinated," Garcetti said. “To anyone thinking about filing a disingenuous exemption request, I strongly urge that you reconsider. Every request will be carefully vetted, and our goal will always be to get as many Angelenos vaccinated as possible.”

The mayor echoed similar sentiments from Moore, who said Tuesday that he “won’t comment on the sincerity level” of those LAPD employees claiming a religious exemption.

“We have seen a number of our personnel who have filed for an intent to have an exemption, based on either medical or sincerely held religious belief,” Moore told the Los Angeles Police Commission. “The department will wait for the city to provide instructions relative to the interpretation and what will happen to those intentions to file.”

The news is the latest instance in which police officers have spurned vaccinations and been resistant to mandates. The virus has been devastating among law enforcement in the country, with more officers dying of covid-19 last year than in firearm-related incidents, according to data from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.

Police unions nationwide have sought in recent weeks to prevent or delay mandatory vaccination for officers. Law enforcement agencies in cities including Portland, Ore., Cincinnati and San Jose have warned that vaccine mandates could result in mass resignations that decimate already understaffed departments. Some unions, as in New York City, are pushing for unvaccinated officers to be tested during working hours or to be given overtime pay if they get tested while off duty.

Other police departments’ unions have denounced the mandates outright. John Catanzara, the president of Chicago’s police union, likened vaccine mandates to the Holocaust. He later apologized. Police departments in Arizona have even begun recruiting officers in Washington state after Gov. Jay Inslee (D) announced that he would not offer exemptions to Washington state’s vaccine mandate.

Pushback has been seen throughout California as well. The San Diego police union said an internal survey of employees found that nearly half of those polled would prefer to be fired than comply with a vaccine mandate the city is pursuing, according to the Times of San Diego.

In Los Angeles, more than 3,100 LAPD employees have tested positive for the novel coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, according to CBS Los Angeles. Ten LAPD officers have died of covid-19 during the pandemic.

The department has recorded 66 infections and four hospitalizations in the past two weeks, Moore said.

About 54 percent of the LAPD staff, or 6,573 employees, were at least partially vaccinated as of Tuesday, the police chief told the police commission. The vaccination rate among LAPD employees lags far behind the city’s and state’s inoculation levels. About 85 percent of the department’s infections between June 1 and the start of September were among unvaccinated employees, reported the Los Angeles Times.

Mark Cronin, a 27-year LAPD employee and union official handling virus-related issues, told The Post earlier this year that he was baffled about the officers in his department who refuse vaccination.

“I tell our members that you’re an absolute fool if you don’t get it,” he told The Post in May.

The lawsuit filed over the weekend claims that unvaccinated officers “can safely perform their job duties protecting themselves, fellow employees and the community they serve through non-pharmaceutical interventions such as daily health screenings, wearing masks, and quarantine.”

The six employees who are plaintiffs accuse commanders of calling unvaccinated employees “unfit for duty,” and one allegation in the lawsuit claims an LAPD captain recently told officers that the city was prepared to fire thousands of unvaccinated officers.

“A Captain, acting as the Chief’s Duty Officer at the time, appeared at a roll call and advised the employees present that the ‘City is willing to let go of the roughly 3,000 officers not vaccinated,’ ” according to the lawsuit.

Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer said he was confident the city would prevail in the lawsuit.

“It cannot be the case that the health of anyone’s child, anyone’s grandma, anybody in our city could be put at risk because they come into contact with a first responder who hasn’t been vaccinated,” he said in a statement to the Guardian.

Fewer than 10 percent of the city’s employees have reported being unvaccinated, but about 40 percent of municipal employees have yet to share their vaccination status, according to the city. Garcetti, the mayor, urged city employees who have not shared their vaccination status to do so immediately.

“Anyone who hasn’t given us that information must do it now,” he said in a statement.

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