SAN JOSE (KPIX) -- A potentially dire situation is developing in the San Jose Police Department where as many as 125 officers and staff members are refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
If they don't, the city says they could lose their jobs.
The San Jose Police Officers Association broke its silence on the city's
employee vaccination mandate Wednesday by sending a proposal to the City Manager's office asking to turn a so-called "vaccinate or terminate" policy into a "vaccinate or accommodate" policy.
"We believe this proposal really strikes the right balance in helping maintain safety and reducing the spread," said San Jose POA President Sean Pritchard.
Monday was the deadline for all city employees to show proof of vaccination or
proof of a negative COVID test every week in order to work. But the city's plan is to phase out the testing option for all except those who can provide a
medical or religious exemption.
"By the end of September, we would be asked to provide proof of vaccination and that the weekly testing would no longer be an option," said San Jose spokesperson Vicki Day.
The POA's proposal is to keep the testing option open.
"We've seen this with state employees, we've seen this with federal employees
and if it's good enough for them, it should be good enough for us," said Pritchard.
Police vaccination numbers are on the rise. 88% of the department including non-sworn staff and recruits have received at least one dose with 84 percent responding to an internal SJPD survey.
86% of sworn officers have received at least one dose, with 86% reporting.
But KPIX has learned that an "anti-mandatory vaccine" group has formed
within the department using the highly encrypted Telegram app to communicate.
A screenshot of the app shows the group has 123 members in a department with a little over 1,100 officers. The concern now is that those members won't get the vaccine and could be placed on leave per the city policy.
"If the city moves to get rid of these officers -- we're barely hanging on right now. That would absolutely decimate this police department," said Pritchard.
A source in San Jose City Hall told KPIX 5 Wednesday that the policy is not set in stone. The city is reaching out and talking to all of its unions -- including the SJPOA -- to come to some sort of accommodation.
The bottom line is that the city wants to show they are very serious about the policy and want everybody to get vaccinated. The fact that the Pfizer vaccine has received full FDA approval has already led to an increase in employees getting vaccinated, so it may be less of a problem moving forward.
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