ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) — With three Tampa Bay law enforcement officers being laid to rest in the same week, all victims of COVID-19, some are wondering if there should be a mandate that all law enforcement officers are vaccinated.
At St. Petersburg Police Officer Michael Weiskopf’s funeral, Chief Anthony Holloway took the opportunity to urge his fellow officers who haven’t been vaccinated to do so.
“That’s why I’m asking every deputy, every police officer – please, as I said earlier. If you don’t want to do it for yourself, do it for your coworkers. Do it for your family. But do it for someone,” Chief Holloway said.
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman says unvaccinated law enforcement officers and other first responders is a cause for concern.
“It puts the public at risk if they are unvaccinated and they come into contact with the public,” Kriseman explained. “Their chances of getting infected and getting the virus are greater.”
Kriseman says there are discussions about a vaccine mandate – but not just for police officers.
“If we do it, it would be city-wide… or city employee wide. I wouldn’t just limit it to first responders,” the mayor said. “All of our health care experts, you know – this is a pandemic of the unvaccinated and the only way that we can end this pandemic is for everybody to get vaccinated.”
The City of Tampa announced last month it would mandate COVID-19 vaccines for employees.
Criminal defense attorney Roger Futerman believes law enforcement officers have an obligation to keep the public safe and, therefore, get the vaccination.
“They should all be vaccinated. There is no reasonable explanation why they shouldn’t,” Futerman said. “The DUI squad, for example, who are specifically out night after night making DUI arrests, who are coming up to car after car window, who are having close contact with suspects day after day, night after night, numerous people week in and week out – they should all be vaccinated.”
But Nick Marolda has a different opinion. He’s the president of the West Central Florida Police Benevolent Association. It’s his job to fight for officers’ rights. And that’s not all, he says.
“What I’m trying to do is trying to keep police officers from being fired,” Marolda said. “We can’t afford to lose cops on the streets right now.”
While a majority of officers elect to receive the vaccination, he believes for those who refuse, there can be measures to make sure the public is safe.
“Listen, if the officer does not want to get vaccinated, these are the steps that they have to do,” Marolda said. “They have to wear a mask – indoors, outdoors, when they are on traffic stops – if they don’t, they’re subject to discipline. They need to get tested.”
Gov. Ron DeSantis also voiced his opposition to a vaccine mandate for law enforcement on Thursday.