Portland city officials may need to backtrack on an order issued last week that all employees be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or risk losing their jobs. Officials said they’re considering tweaking the rule to exempt one bureau: the city’s police force.
The city attorney’s office advised city staff on Tuesday that the order requiring Portland’s police force to be vaccinated was now legally dubious due to new guidance from the Oregon Health Authority, Oregon Public Broadcasting reports.
Under Oregon law, local municipalities can only issue vaccine mandates for firefighters and police officers if there is already a federal or state rule in place that requires it, per an email from deputy city attorney Heidi Brown. The city believed that requirement came on August 19 when Gov. Kate Brown issued a vaccination mandate for the state’s healthcare workers. The city felt the Governor’s definition of health care workers was broad enough to cover police officers, who receive some medical training. The city attorney’s office advised the city to move forward with a citywide vaccination mandate that included police.
But new guidance related to the Governor’s vaccine mandate, delivered to the city late Friday, said that police officers were most likely exempt from the state’s vaccine mandate. That guidance said law enforcement was “probably not” subject to the governor’s orders as providing medical care was “likely not a fundamental part of their job.”