A police union claims dozens of Massachusetts State Police troopers have submitted paperwork to resign in response to the governor's COVID-19 vaccine mandate. The department, however, said only one trooper has resigned over the mandate but others are "considering resigning or retiring for that reason."
"To date, dozens of troopers have already submitted their resignation paperwork, some of whom plan to return to other departments offering reasonable alternatives such as mask-wearing and regular testing," Michael Cherven, president of the State Police Association of Massachusetts, said in a statement Monday.
"The State Police are already critically short-staffed and acknowledged this by the unprecedented moves which took troopers from specialty units that investigate homicides, terrorism, computer crimes, arsons, gangs, narcotics, and human trafficking, and returned them to uniformed patrol."
Dave Procopio, a Massachusetts State Police spokesman, said the department is aware of only one officer who has resigned citing the mandate.
"As of this morning, the Department has been notified by our human resources office of one Trooper who has definitively stated he will retire because of the vaccine mandate," Procopio said in a statement to CBS News on Tuesday. "It is our understanding that other Troopers are considering resigning or retiring for that reason, but as of right now we are aware of only the one who has definitively said he will go."
Governor Charlie Baker's mandate applies to all executive department employees, including state troopers and state officials. The order, which goes into effect on October 17, requires employees to show proof of vaccination. Those who don't get the shot could be "subject to disciplinary action" and fired.
In the Monday statement, Cherven called the mandate "one of the most stringent vaccine mandates in the country with no reasonable alternatives."
"Throughout COVID, we have been on the front lines protecting the citizens of Massachusetts and beyond. Simply put, all we are asking for are the same basic accommodations that countless other departments have provided to their first responders, and to treat a COVID-related illness as a line of duty injury," Cherven added.
Last week, a judge denied the union's request to pause the mandate. The union had argued the state needed to bargain with workers before implementing the mandate, according to CBS Boston. An attorney with the union said 20% of state police employees were unvaccinated.
Meanwhile, Baker has stressed the importance of his mandate, saying it will help his state lead the nation in vaccinations. More than 74% of Massachusetts residents are fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"I think it's critically important for public officials who deal directly with the public on a regular basis, who have no idea whether the people they're dealing with are vaccinated or not. And those people who are dealing with them ought to believe that they are vaccinated," Baker told reporters Monday.
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