DENVER (AP) — A judge on Wednesday dismissed an attempt by a group of Denver police officers to block the city's vaccine mandate from taking effect.
In a lawsuit filed last week, seven officers claimed that the city did not have the authority to impose the mandate under a local disaster emergency declared by Mayor Michael Hancock at the beginning of the pandemic, noting that Democratic Gov. Jared Polis rescinded his statewide emergency pandemic order in July.
The officers who sued claimed the city should have instead followed the more drawn out process laid out in state law to impose regulations.
However, Judge Shelley Gilman ruled that law only applies to state agencies. Under city law, the officers should have appealed the vaccine mandate, first issued on Aug. 2, to the health board before filing a lawsuit, she said.
Since they did not, Gilman said she had no jurisdiction to decide the case and dismissed it, granting a dismissal request made by the city in its response to the lawsuit filed on Tuesday.
Lawyers for the city noted that four of the seven officers who filed the lawsuit have been granted unspecified exemptions to the mandate and a fifth was denied an exemption for failing to cite an accepted reason.
They also listed recent unsuccessful attempts to block vaccine mandates in state and federal court by teachers in New York and health care workers in Kentucky and Texas.
Under Denver's public health order, updated Sept. 1, all city employees, workers in public and private schools and people who work for private employers such as hospitals, homeless shelters, childcare centers must show proof that they are vaccinated by Thursday. City workers face dismissal for noncompliance.
Under a discipline plan released by the city attorney's office, the city plans to start issuing letters Friday to unvaccinated employees who have not been granted exemptions notifying them that will face discipline.
Workers who refuse to get vaccinated under any circumstance will be dismissed. Others will be suspended for 10 days without pay and dismissed if they remain unvaccinated.
The mandate comes as the city's police department struggles with a shortage of officers.
Police Chief Paul Pazen has acknowledged a higher number of resignations and retirements this year compared to previous years but told city councilors last week that the shortage of officers was the result of the cancelation of police academy classes because of pandemic budget cuts.
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