Policing

Majority of PVD City Council supports unvaccinated police officers

“Part of ‘serving and protecting’ means following evidence-based public health guidance. Anything less is a betrayal of the oath of office,” say City Council candidates. “Further, as COVID-19 was one of the highest causes of death for police officers in 2020, a vaccine mandate is essential to protect the people tasked with protecting the people of Providence.”
Photo for Majority of PVD City Council supports unvaccinated police officers

Published on January 13, 2022
By Steve Ahlquist

Providence City Council President John Igliozzi is holding a special meeting of the council on Friday night to pass an ordinance preventing the “mass termination” of police officers who refuse to be vaccinated against Covid-19. As many as 80 police officers may be affected by the city policy and are under threat of termination for not complying with the city’s vaccine mandate.

This is not the first time that Council president Igliozzi has fear mongered the issue of to score political points. See also: PVD City Council battles the self-created perception that the City isn’t safe

“If a significant number of police officers are fired, lawlessness would take hold, disrupt City business, and put every resident of Providence at risk,” said President Igliozzi (Ward 7) in a statement.

The ordinance is co-sponsored by Councilmembers Carmen Castillo (Ward 9), Michael Correia (Ward 6), Pedro Espinal (Ward 15), Mary Kay Harris (Ward 11), Nicholas Narducci (Ward 4), Jo-Ann Ryan (Ward 5), James Taylor (Ward 8) and Oscar Vargas (Ward 15), a majority of the council.

Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza chided President Igliozzi in a statement released Wednesday night. Calling Friday night’s emergency meeting a “misinformed stunt” Mayor Elorza said, “Vaccines are safe, effective and the best tool to ending this pandemic. All City employees, especially public safety personnel, interact frequently with the public. We have a responsibility to do all we can to keep one another safe.”

The Mayor noted the example of the Providence Fire Department. When firefighters were faced with termination for not being vaccinated, only five chose not to receive the vaccine. “Ultimately,” said Mayor Elorza, “100% of Providence firefighters are now vaccinated.”

“Since announcing our vaccine policy, at least 21 Providence officers have already received their first dose of the vaccine and others have made appointments to receive it in the coming days,” said Mayor Elorza. “The vaccine policy is working. The Council President’s stunt undermines everyone’s efforts and virtually ensures that more people will refuse to take the vaccine.” All city staff are required to submit proof of vaccination status by close of business Friday.

Five candidates for Providence City Council also came out strong against Igliozzi’s ordinance. Candidates Jackie Goldman (Ward 4), Andrew Point (Ward 14), Corey Jones (Ward 3), Justin Roias (Ward 4) and Miguel Sanchez (Ward 6) are urging the Providence City Council “not to pass Ordinance 35118, which would exempt Public Safety Employees such as Police, Fire, Communications, or PEMA, from the City’s vaccine mandate. As Providence City Council candidates, we stand united in our opposition to this ordinance and hope that the Council will reject it outright, as vaccine mandates are an evidence-proven way to keep people safe.

Providence is currently in crisis. Our hospitals are overflowing with patients, our schools lack sufficient staff to teach effectively, and everyone must do what is in their power to keep themselves and each other safe and this means that people with jobs that have contact with the public need to get vaccinated. Safety, for both the people of Providence, as well as the employees is of vital importance. This is especially true of people whose entire job should be to ensure safety for all residents of the City.

Part of ‘serving and protecting’ means following evidence-based public health guidance. Anything less is a betrayal of the oath of office. Further, as COVID-19 was one of the highest causes of death for police officers in 2020, a vaccine mandate is essential to protect the people tasked with protecting the people of Providence.

Jackie Goldman (Ward 5 Candidate) is an epidemiologist, and was activated to work at the Department of Health during the initial wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. They were able to see first hand how Public Safety Employees were directly responsible for spreading COVID-19 to medically vulnerable people. Additionally, it does not take a public health professional to be able to see that the Omicron Variant, with its high transmissibility, needs to be taken seriously.

Any exemption from the vaccine mandate created by Mayor Jorge Elorza actively endangers the residents of this great city. Now is the time to work together to make sure that everyone received a full course of the COVID-19 Vaccine to both protect themselves and to protect the people they serve.

If passed, President Igliozzi’s ordinance would require “the Commissioner of Public Safety, the Director of Human Resources, or any other City official to provide a clear explanation for mass terminations and an appropriate staffing plan for the impacted department. The new law would detail the following:

  • No more than 2% of Public Safety employees could be terminated without first submitting a staffing plan to the City Council for approval
  • No more than 20% of employees of any City department with more than 30 full-time employees could be terminated without first submitting a staffing plan to the City Council for approval
  • City Council would hold a public hearing within two weeks of receiving a written plan and be required to pass a resolution authorizing the proposed terminations

“Police officers and all City employees should get vaccinated to protect the health of their co-workers, the public, and themselves,” said President Igliozzi in his statement. “Vaccines are proven to be safe and effective. The reality is, however, that we must strike a balance. Put simply, Providence cannot afford to lose nearly 80 police officers especially at a time when gun violence and other violent crime in on the rise in Providence. To ensure that we can maintain public safety in our city, the Council must and will take action to prevent any mass terminations.”

Did you enjoy this article?


More Policing Coverage