Local police say a vaccine mandate could make staffing shortage more of a challenge

Published: Oct. 8, 2021 at 5:51 PM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) -Some police officers in Virginia are threatening to leave their jobs if the vaccine mandate for federal workers is enforced for them.

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management says that enforcement can start November 9.

Right now, localities are exempt from this federal mandate. But if Virginia’s Department of Labor and Industry decides to change that, cites and counties would have to update their policies. Our area law enforcement would have to follow that as well.

“We are City of Harrisonburg employees. It’s not the Harrisonburg Police Department what our response must be, what the protocols are for our employees. We follow what the city tells us,” Captain Jason Kidd with the Harrisonburg Police Department said.

Right now, HPD officers need to wear a mask when indoors around others, but they are not required to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

“Currently, with some of the challenges we have in law enforcement, it would be an added challenge really if it were a mandate that everyone become vaccinated because from our perspective, it is a personal choice,” Cpt. Kidd said.

Harrisonburg Police and departments across the country are already dealing with staffing shortages.

“And certainly with the COVID protocols, I believe that is a factor in why there are shortages in the nation in law enforcement,” Cpt. Kidd said.

But he says the police department currently has have enough staff to ensure the public’s safety is not compromised.

“We are keeping our staffing numbers at least at that minimum levels that we have to have to ensure safety, and certainly it’s a challenge because we have vacancies, and when that happens, then it creates more of a strain on our employees, so everyone is pulling their weight and a bit extra now,” Cpt. Kidd said.

However, HPD does have strategies in place to recruit more officers.

“The Harrisonburg Police Department has a hiring bonus of $6,000 now to help coax folks into applying and looking into Harrisonburg PD as a destination for a career,” Cpt. Kidd said.

If a vaccine mandate is put in place at the local level, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management is advising agencies to first take steps like counseling and providing educational material before any disciplinary action is taken.

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