New York Police to Send a Quarter of Its Force Home Over Vaccine Status Amid Protests

The New York City Police Department (NYPD) may be forced to send up to one-quarter of its force home amid mass protests and some crime spikes as the deadline for city workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 goes into effect Friday.

Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said Tuesday that 72 percent of the NYPD has received at least one vaccine dose, and while he expects that number to increase by the end of the week, those who do not comply will be sent home without pay.

"We have to prepare as if this is going to go into effect Friday evening and that's exactly what we're going to do," Shea said on NY1, according to the New York Daily News. "We have vaccines available throughout the city for our members."

Earlier this month, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that regular COVID-19 testing would no longer be an option to replace vaccination and that all city employees—including first responders—would have until October 29 to receive at least one vaccine dose.

The announcement sparked outrage among unvaccinated city workers, and led to a mass protest in the city on Monday.

Thousands of workers with the fire department, emergency medical services and sanitation department joined members of the NYPD to block roads and march to City Hall in Brooklyn. A day earlier, other anti-vaccine protesters sparked chaos in the city after storming barricades outside of the Barclays Center in support of Brooklyn Nets' basketball player Kyrie Irving, who also refuses to be vaccinated.

NYPD Vaccine Mandate Protest
The NYPD may be forced to send up to one-fourth of its police force home without pay Friday as the city's vaccine mandate deadline approaches. Here, thousands of city workers hold placards and shout slogans during a protest against the COVID-19 vaccine mandate, in New York on October 25. ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images

The NYPD's largest union also moved forward with a lawsuit Monday attempting to block the city's vaccine mandate from taking effect. On Tuesday, Shea urged members of the police force to avoid waiting for the results of the lawsuit and to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

"Anyone at this point in time, unless something changes, will be put into a leave-without-pay status," Shea said, according to the Daily News. "What I would urge is for people not to wait to the last moment to see what happens with the lawsuit or anything else. Get the vaccine."

While the NYPD's vaccination rates continue to lag, the rates among other city workers are even lower—with roughly just 60 percent of the fire department and sanitation department's uniformed workforce having received their shots.

"I don't know how we got here," Shea told reporters on Tuesday.

"We even have nurses refusing to get vaccinated. I think people made this such a political issue during the 2020 elections and now it's come home to roost. Wouldn't it have been a nicer situation if you had President Trump and President-elect Biden standing next to each other saying everyone has to get vaccinated right now? But we had it as a political issue and now it's just festering in the time we're in," he added.

The vaccination deadline and threat of losing officers comes amid a recent spike in some crime levels across the city. According to the most recent NYPD crime report, robberies, felony assaults and grand larceny have all increased from this time last year. However, crime statistics from last month indicate that murder and shootings have declined from this time in 2020.

To increase overall vaccine incentive, de Blasio is offering to give city workers an extra $500 if they get their shots at a city-run vaccination site by the Friday deadline.

"It's time now. If you don't want to get vaccinated, you'll be put on unpaid leave. Well, the vast majority of human beings go to work to get paid. And also, I think for a lot of our first responders, there's a calling. They believe in the work, they care about the work. Those two factors I think are going to cause the vast majority to get vaccinated," de Blasio said in a statement.

Newsweek contacted Shea for additional comment, but did not hear back in time for publication.