They’ve tried nothing and are all out of ideas (Updated)
The growing crime wave in the suburban Twin Cities metro area has pushed area leaders into alternating bouts of finger-pointing and pledges of cooperation. In the past two weeks, Minnesota’s…
St. Paul faces a violent crime wave that promises to get worse before it gets better any time soon. At the same time, Capitol City residents remain dangerously vulnerable due to a shortage of dozens of police officers on the streets.
So what does St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter plan to do about it? Fire the up to 100 St. Paul police officers who have served on the front lines throughout the pandemic, but decline to go along with Carter’s vaccine mandate for roughly 4,000 city employees.
Rather than see the public lose the protection of dozens of officers who decline to comply with Carter’s end of the year deadline, the AP reports the St. Paul Federation of Police has turned to the courts to prevent the mayor from decimating their ranks.
But the St. Paul Police Federation has resisted, suggesting that unvaccinated employees be allowed to continue working if they wear masks and take regular tests for the virus. It filed the lawsuit Tuesday in the Minnesota court system.
Police departments around the U.S. are running up against pockets of vaccine resistance that some fear could leave law enforcement shorthanded and undermine public safety.
The St. Paul police union’s lawsuit argues that the vaccine requirement amounts to a new condition for employment that was not negotiated with the union. It is asking a judge to halt the mandate until the union and city negotiate an agreement.
“We are not anti-vaccine, nor are we conspiracy theorists — we are reasonable and dedicated public servants who believe in personal choice,” the union said in a statement.
It’s not as if Carter shouldn’t have seen this coming. The lawsuit points out that police union representatives proposed alternatives similar to those available to public employees at the state and other local governments, according to the Pioneer Press.
In an October meeting with representatives of multiple city unions, before Carter announced the mandate, the unions “unanimously rejected” the city’s proposed mandate and reiterated a desire for a testing option, the lawsuit said: “Even though the Federation and City were unable to reach an agreement regarding a COVID-19 vaccination policy, the City unilaterally imposed the policy.”
The police union estimates about 20 percent of officers aren’t vaccinated, which equates to more than 100 officers “who will be relieved of their duties,” the Federation statement said. “We are already down 80 officers in a year where we’re experiencing record numbers of citizens being shot and homicides. We know that an inadequately staffed police force is a much greater danger to our community than 20% of our officers not being vaccinated.”
But Carter also runs the risk of also losing fire fighters and other public safety employees due to his intransigence.
Mike Smith, International Association of Fire Fighters Local 21 president, said St. Paul firefighters “stand with our law enforcement partners” and that their union is considering filing a similar lawsuit. Firefighters also work as EMTs and paramedics in St. Paul.
Smith estimated 80 percent of his members are vaccinated. He said some firefighters “want the choice of what they put into their body and some have a medical, religious belief that they should have the option.”
Unless the courts intervene, there may well be dozens less police officers, fire fighters and EMTs available to help St. Paul residents in an emergency after the turn of the year. Quite a “Happy New Year” from St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter!