Sheriff Villanueva announces that requiring deputies to be vaccinated is a threat to public safety & will create “a pandemic of chaos”

Celeste Fremon
Written by Celeste Fremon

On Thursday afternoon, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva sent a two-page letter to the LA County Board of Supervisors telling the board members that their vaccine mandate “is an imminent threat to public safety.”

The executive order issued by the board on August 10, requires all county employees — with some exemptions for medical and religious reasons — to be fully vaccinated by October 1.

If he was to enforce the mandate, the sheriff wrote, he could potentially lose 44 percent of his workforce in one day.

“As homicides continued to rise, the Board of Supervisors voted to require all Los Angeles County employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or face discipline, up to and including termination,” Sheriff Villanueva wrote in separate public statement posted on the LASD’s website, where Villanueva urged department members to contact members of the LA County Board of Supervisors and voice their objections.

“With the pandemic diminishing, there is no justification for the Board mandate,” he wrote. “[It] is like putting up the storm windows after the storm has passed. “

His rank and file personnel “already wear masks and would submit to routine COVID-19 testing,” said Villanueva.

Sheriff Villanueva at homeless encampment, Oct. 21, 2021, courtesy of LASD

The sheriff blamed the vaccination mandate for causing what he described as a “mass exodus” within the department.

 “I have repeatedly stated the dangers to public safety when 20%-30% of my workforce is no longer available to provide service, and those dangers are quickly becoming a reality.” 

This will cause “homicide rates” to “continue to rise,” he wrote. “Response times will increase, solve rates will diminish, arrests will decline, patrol services will significantly decline, and patrol stations will close.”

In his letter to the supervisors, the sheriff took his warnings a bit farther.

“Of great concern is the upcoming fire season,” he wrote. “With the reduction of personnel, I would be unable to mobilize and deploy mobile field forces which are critical in conducting evacuations in natural disasters.”

He didn’t stop there, however. “I can firmly tell you,” the sheriff concluded darkly, “this mandate will create a pandemic of chaos within our county resulting in tragic losses.”

A pandemic of chaos, if sheriff’s deputies (and paramedics) who, as part of their jobs, routinely come into direct physical contact with community members, are required to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.

The L.A. County Sheriff’s Department which is the worlds largest sheriff’s agency, has more than 10,000 officers and 8,000 civilian staff members. 

Late last month, the LA Times wrote that, according to data Times reporters had obtained through a California Public Records Act request, the Times learned that county health officials had “identified hundreds of coronavirus outbreaks” in both the city and the county’s police and fire agencies since the start of the pandemic.

To put it another way, out of nearly 2,300 total workplace outbreaks identified by the county between March 2020 and last month, 211 — or about 9% — were within public safety agencies, wrote Times reporter Kevin Rector,

(Each “outbreak,” of course, can result in several dozen cases or more. And those numbers presumably don’t include anyone among the general public who may have contracted the virus via contact with one of the affected public safety officials.

So are such mandates legal?

It should be noted that Sheriff Villanueva is himself vaccinated. 

“But the choice to receive the vaccine is a personal one,” he wrote in his message to his troops, “and an individual who served the community tirelessly before there was a vaccine should not now be fired because they made a decision about their own body.”

Actually, Jacobson v. Massachusetts, a landmark decision by the U.S. Supreme Court rendered on February 20, 1905, arguably suggests otherwise.

Here’s the deal.

Back in 1905, a Massachusetts law allowed cities to require residents to be vaccinated against smallpox during a then-raging smallpox epidemic. So it was that the Cambridge, Mass, Board of Health exercised what it perceived to be its authority to require vaccination against smallpox, and adopted such an ordinance, with some exceptions. Cambridge resident Henning Jacobson and his son refused to comply with the requirement and was fined five dollars.

His attorneys held that forcing Mr. Jacobson to be vaccinated violated Jacobson’s Fourteenth Amendment right to personal liberty.

The Supremes, however, ruled that the law was a legitimate exercise of the state’s power to protect the public health and safety of its citizens.

There’s a lot more to the 114-year-old ruling, of course, but that’s the bottom line. One assumes if state and local government can require vaccines under certain circumstances, such as during an epidemic, during a pandemic such as the one we have been living through, even a conservative-leaning high court might find that a county government could require vaccinations of its public safety officers as a condition of employment.

And while we’re on the topic of public health and safety, the Fraternal Order of Police, a national union that represents 356,000 officers, has been tracking line-of-duty COVID deaths of law enforcement officers nationwide. As of October 28, 2021, the Order estimates that 764 officers have died from Covid-19 since the pandemic began. In California, 61 law enforcement officers have been taken from their family and friends by the virus.

In the state of Texas — where Governor Greg Abbott continues to hand out executive orders banning vaccine mandates, issued a new executive order this month banning such mandates by any “entity in Texas” — the Fraternal Order of Police shows the highest number of line-of-duty COVID-19 deaths of all 50 states, with 181 law enforcement officers killed by the virus as of this week.

Meanwhile, over at the Los Angeles Police Department, Chief Michel Moore said that the department is committed to a “fully vaccinated police force.”

More as we know it


  • The Sheriff is peddling poppycock.

    Most COVID-19 cases today is among the unvaccinated; the Sheriff is in reality endangering the public by allowing unvaccinated Deputies to go out & interact with the larger community.

    Personally I’ve just had my third Pfizer (2nd booster) with absolutely no ill effects; likewise everybody in my household & family members outside my household.

  • What was Jacobson’s punishment for refusing to be vaccinated? It was $5, or the equivalent of $150 in today’s money. His punishment was not losing his job, not being able to go to restaurants or fly on a plane or pretty much do anything in society.

    Also, the jacobson case was behind small pox. The risk of death for small pox was 30% if you contracted it, and covid is around 1%. Not to mention, if you didn’t die from small pox you had high chance of going blind and permanent scaring.

    If Trump was still president and doing these mandates, you liberals would be losing your mind.

    As for the Sheriff……hell yeah…..mandates are not laws, and mandates only apply during state of emergency, which we all know this is no longer a state of emergency.

  • LNS

    “…Mandates are not laws…’

    Just yesterday (10-29-2021; Friday) the U.S Supreme Court blocked a challenge to Maine’s vaccine mandate, making the mandate now the Law of the Land.

    Full particulars of the ruling can be Googled.

  • Correct..mandates are not laws ..So that means you can’t get arrested or cited..
    But you can be suspended or fired..The writing is on the wall. The courts are upholding these “mandates”

    A max exodus of employees as Villanueva asserts is ridiculous..A soon as the first few get suspended or fired, minds will change..These employees have families and loved ones to support !
    They need to look at the Big Picture and be clear about what the long-term consequences of their decisions will be !

  • There are a great many laws of the land that go unenforced. Look at the southern boarder. Even closer ask Mr Gascon about laws he refuses to enforce.

    Deputies should get vaccinated. I think the Sheriff’s statement that he could lose up to 30% of his staff is an exaggeration.

    It is interesting how the focus is on Law Enforcement. Doctors, nurses and firefighters are also refusing to get vaccinated!

  • Not exactly rak. 3 justices voted to grant to the block. 2 justices, states they don’t like the use of “shadow docket” in which you don’t get full briefings including oral arguments. So essentially, they need to have a full hearing. So “law of the land” might be over stating it.

  • Re the smallpox death rate noted above, it was about 30%. European settlers wiped out massive numbers of native Americans upon arrival here. What lessened the impact worldwide was getting vaccinated. That’s what the vaccine mandates are about – trying to impact the spread of disease and our death rate.
    People will still get the disease and some will still die but it is a huge help toward ending this mess. We need not repeat the tragic lessons of the past.

    Without debating the realities of the job, there are many people out there would consider working in law enforcement a great opportunity – full time, overtime, benefits, etc. Ever see what your bank branch manager earns? So those that are anti-vaxers can leave and do something else. Their agencies will go on w/o them. And by the way, no liberal here.

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