San Francisco Puts Nearly 200 Unvaccinated First Responders on Leave While Crime Surges

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - MAY 15: San Francisco police chief Bill Scott speaks during a news con
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Crime is on the rise in San Francisco but city officials have placed more than 180 employees including police and sheriff’s departments who have not received a coronavirus vaccine on paid leave, a move that triggers a process that could end in termination.

According to San Francisco Police’s crime dashboard, a number of year to year crimes are on the rise in the city, including homicide (12.8 percent), assault (9.2 percent), human trafficking (20 percent), and arson (9.3 percent).

San Francisco officials claim they can cut staff and still provide critical services.

“Across the country and the world, thousands of people continue to die from COVID-19,” Mawuli Tugbenyoh, spokesperson for the Department of Human Resources, said in a statement issued Thursday. “Sadly, this includes employees of the city and county of San Francisco.”

“To protect the health and safety of members of the public as well as employees, the city issued its vaccination policy,” Tugbenyoh said.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported on the development:

As of Thursday afternoon, 76 sworn police officers — or 3.5 percent of all officers — remained unvaccinated. A additional 32 non-sworn employees also have not received shots. Those numbers dropped from early Wednesday evening, when Police Chief Bill Scott said 118 officers and 31 non-sworn employees remained unvaccinated, on trend with a decline in recent weeks.

The Police Department has 2,832 employees, including 2,113 officers. Most, but not all, needed to get vaccinated by Oct. 13. The Sheriff’s Department reported a 3.8 percent unvaccinated rate, with 39 out of 1,014 staff not fully vaccinated. In the Fire Department, 35 employees — or 2 percent of 1,738 — have not gotten shots.

Of the departments affected by Wednesday’s mandate deadline, the Adult Probation Department had the highest rate of unvaccinated staff at 5 percent, but that only accounted for eight people. The other departments had higher vaccination rates.

San Francisco’s Department of Human Resources said employees who have not gotten vaccinated will now receive notices that they can no longer report to work. A hearing for each employee will be held and employees can appeal if they are ruled against. If their appeal is denied they will be terminated.

“Employees can apply for medical or religious exemptions. The city has so far received approximately 800 exemption requests from city workers, which it is reviewing ‘as quickly as possible with priority given to employees who have earlier deadlines for vaccination,’” the Chronicle reported. “As of Wednesday, 260 of those requests came from police, sheriff and fire departments.”

Police chief Scott said in an email that the department would rearrange staffing to fill patrol spots vacated by unvaccinated employees but he also stressed earlier in the year that the department was already 18 percent below recommended staffing levels when asking supervisors for more funding. 

Tracy McCray, vice president of the San Francisco Police Officers Association and lieutenant in charge of the robbery unit, said on Thursday she was concerned about the shortage of police.

“It’s a time when we really can’t afford to lose anyone,” McCray said. “It’s just really harsh, it’s my way or the highway.”

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