Portland may exempt police from city-wide vaccination mandate
Portland city officials may have to reverse an order issued last week that all employees must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or risk losing their jobs.
Officials said they were considering changing the rule to exempt one office: the city police force.
The city attorney’s office on Tuesday informed city staff that the order requiring the Portland police force to be vaccinated was now legally questionable due to new guidelines from the Oregon Health Authority.
Under Oregon law, local municipalities can only issue vaccination warrants for firefighters and police officers if there is already a federal or state rule that requires it, via email from the Deputy District Attorney. city, Heidi Brown. The city believed the requirement came on August 19 when Governor Kate Brown issued a vaccination warrant for health care workers in the state. The city felt that the governor’s definition of healthcare workers was broad enough to cover police officers, who receive medical training. The city attorney’s office advised the city to go ahead with a city-wide vaccination warrant that included police.
But new guidelines related to the governor’s vaccine mandate, delivered to the city on Friday evening, indicate that police were most likely exempt from the state’s vaccine mandate. These guidelines indicated that law enforcement was “probably not” subject to the governor’s orders, as the provision of medical care was “probably not a fundamental part of their job.”
The updated guidelines forced the city of Portland to reconsider its own mandate.
“There are no regulations requiring the vaccination of police officers, and without it the city cannot require the police to be vaccinated,” Brown wrote in an email.
The rule change would come after a backlash against the mandate of the city’s police union, which warned that such a demand would lead to massive resignations from an already understaffed force. Willamette Week reported that the police union’s senior lawyer argued to the city that officers opposed it “so deeply” that they would quit the police force before being vaccinated. According to PPB spokesperson Teri Wallo-Strauss, 145 board members have been sworn in since July 2020.
The Portland Police Department said it does not have vaccination rates for its officers.
The city has not publicly announced any policy changes regarding the vaccination mandate. It allows exceptions to the vaccine requirement for all city staff who have medical and religious reasons not to be vaccinated “that meet legal standards.”
Multnomah County was placed in a similar position on Tuesday. Like Portland, the county ordered all employees to be vaccinated by October 18, including the sheriff’s office.
County officials said on Tuesday afternoon they were reviewing how they were affected by the new state guidelines. They stressed that they wanted to see the entire sheriff’s department vaccinated – that they could ultimately enforce their own warrant.
“We strongly believe that everyone should be vaccinated, especially people who work in close contact with vulnerable Oregonians,” county spokeswoman Julie Sullivan-Springhetti wrote in a statement. “We believe vaccines are the key to ending COVID. “