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Late last month, a Washington DC Superior Court ruled that the COVID-19 vaccination mandate imposed on city government workers, including law enforcement officers, is unlawful. The ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed in February by the D.C. Police Union and other law enforcement groups.

According to the Washington Post, Mayor Muriel Bowser imposed the mandate in August 2021, instructing all District employees to submit proof that they had received the Coronavirus vaccination.

The order included a process to apply for a religious exemption or opt for weekly testing, but both of those options were either officially removed or effectively ignored.

Meanwhile, violent crime in the District has been on a steady rise. A report by Fox News in early August showed a 20% increase in murders in 2020 compared to 2019 and another 15% increase in murders in 2021 compared with 2020. Thus far in 2022, murders are up 11% compared to the same time frame in 2021.

A Vexing (Vax) Issue

Soon after the vaccine mandate was announced, the Washington Metro Police Department began to hemorrhage veteran officers—with an untold number leaving in just a few short months—and started to witness the slow, small stream of interested applicants dry up into dust.

In February, the department purchased banner advertisements inside New York City subway cars targeting commuters in the Big Apple—a city 225 miles away from the Nation's Capital—with an open invitation reading, "Gamers. Foodies. Techies. Influencers. Join the next generation of D.C. Police."

In March 2022, DC Police Chief Robert Contee told the city council that the department was losing a "significant" number of potential recruits because they didn't want to take the vaccine.

By June, the department had even begun to offer new recruits a $20,000 hiring bonus, meaning that new officers joining the Metro Police would earn at least $80,000 in their first year. Still, academy classes continued to fall far short of recruiting goals.

At the time of the announcement to tack on a full 33% to a new officer's base pay of just over $60K, Chief Contee said in a press conference, "We have to come up with creative ways to lure officers to our department."

Saved by the Courts?

The recruiting problem for DC Metro—and for other cities with similar vaccine mandates—continued unabated, but may be somewhat ameliorated by the recent court order. Recruiters and academy trainers certainly hope so.

Judge Maurice Ross said in the ruling that Mayor Bowser lacked the legal authority to impose the mandate, and that if any such requirement was to be made, only the D.C. Police Officers Standards and Training Board had the ability to establish health standards for the department, and by extension, new recruits and trainees.

It remains to be seen whether or not the recruiting dilemma in the District will soon be fully solved—or if Mayor Bowser and Chief Contee will be saved by the court—but it is clear that there is a pressing need to have patrol officers working in the city on the Potomac.

Author

Doug Wyllie
Doug Wyllie

Contributing Editor

Doug Wyllie has authored thousands of feature articles, opinion columns, news reports, and tactical tips with the goal of ensuring that police officers are safer and more successful on the streets. Doug is a Western Publishing Association “Maggie Award” winner for Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column. He is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers’ Association (CPOA), and a member of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA).

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Doug Wyllie has authored thousands of feature articles, opinion columns, news reports, and tactical tips with the goal of ensuring that police officers are safer and more successful on the streets. Doug is a Western Publishing Association “Maggie Award” winner for Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column. He is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers’ Association (CPOA), and a member of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA).

View Bio
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