Many U.S. police officers are asking their unions to support the right not to get vaccinated against COVID-19, Axios reported.
The Fraternal Order of Police, a national police union that represents 356,000 officers, has said COVID-19 vaccines are safe and recommends its members get vaccinated.
Still, the union will not support mandates requiring members get the vaccine.
"We are a union and we will defend our members," FOP executive director Jim Pasco told Axios. "You cannot tell people what to do. It's still an individual and personal choice."
Pasco criticized officials who have threatened officers with termination over defying vaccine mandates.
He specifically called out Miami Police Chief Art Acevedo, who told unvaccinated officers to work elsewhere if they don’t get the COVID shots.
"That's management by tantrum," Pasco said. "That's not going to work. Have a conversation and encourage officers, but don't act childish."
Other municipalities also have attempted to impose vaccine mandates.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that by Sept. 13 "every single city employee will be expected to be either vaccinated or tested weekly. This means everybody ... this means the NYPD." He promised "consequences" and to be "very tough if a city government employee does not wear a mask and they are unvaccinated."
Denver's public safety manager last week said he will discipline police officers and sheriff’s deputies who ignore a mandate to get vaccinated. CBS Denver reported that a Denver Police Protective Association survey found 57% of its members were not vaccinated.
In San Francisco, the Deputy Sheriffs' Association promised its members would quit en masse or seek early retirement over Mayor London Breed's new vaccine mandate for officers. The group said 160 out of 700 deputies were not vaccinated due to religious or other beliefs.
In Los Angeles, half of the L.A. Police Department remains unvaccinated. A 10th employee of the department died last week from complications of COVID-19, the Los Angeles Times reported.
In Michigan, the president of the Van Buren Township police and dispatchers union has said perhaps 20% of police and fire officials might quit as a result of a vaccine mandate, The Detroit News reported.
The Fraternal Order of Police estimates that more than 500 officers have died from COVID. No statistics are available to show how many officers have contracted COVID on the job or how many may have spread the virus.
Legal scholars say employers have the right to mandate vaccinations as a condition of employment.
"Does the state generally have the power to impose vaccination requirements on workers? Historically, the answer has been yes," South Texas College of Law Houston constitutional law professor Josh Blackman told Axios.
Blackman, added, however that vaccine mandates could be in violation of collective-bargaining agreements.
"Unions don't like to yield ground," he said. "They like to fight for every single benefit. So if they're suddenly giving up members' rights, then they're perhaps giving ground for some future collective bargaining battle."
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