A Los Angeles police officer said in an Instagram video viewed by tens of thousands of people this week that he will lose his job rather than comply with the COVID-19 vaccination mandate for city employees.
Officer Michael McMahon, a 14-year veteran of the LAPD who founded the group Roll Call 4 Freedom in opposition to the mandate, is the first officer to so publicly reject the new requirements since final compliance notices started going out this week.
In a post to the Roll Call 4 Freedom Instagram page, McMahon said he had been notified that he would be relieved of duty if he did not agree by Friday to the terms of the city mandate, which requires city employees to either get vaccinated by Dec. 18 or receive a medical or religious exemption — and in the meantime pay for regular COVID-19 testing from a city contractor.
“I was advised today that if I refuse to sign the department-mandated form regarding COVID and testing with Bluestone, that I would have 48 hours to reconsider, and come Friday at 4 o’clock, I’ll be relieved of duty,” McMahon said in the video. “Turn in my gun, my badge, my ID, and 14 years of serving the citizens of Los Angeles is ultimately done.”
“I WILL NOT COMPLY,” he wrote below the video.
McMahon did not respond to a request for comment Friday.
Capt. Gisselle Espinoza, an LAPD spokesman, said the department was “looking into the individual in the Instagram video.”
Medical experts say the vaccines are safe and effective, particularly at preventing the worst symptoms of COVID-19 and helping contain the spread of the virus, which has killed more than 5 million people globally.
Legal scholars have said vaccine mandates are legal and have been upheld in courts before. Officers are already required to be vaccinated against a range of other diseases as a condition of their employment, police leaders have said.
City officials have said the COVID-19 vaccination requirement for city employees is meant to keep people safe, including employees but also members of the public they come in contact with, and have pushed ahead with the mandate despite warnings from mandate opponents that it could lead to diminished police and fire forces and reduced public safety.
Dire warnings of mass exoduses of public safety officers have not come to fruition in other cities.
Police officials have said about 75% of the LAPD’s 12,000-plus workforce have been vaccinated. Still, hundreds of personnel had not informed the department of their vaccination status as of this week, and thousands more were seeking exemptions.
LAPD Chief Michel Moore said the notices would be hand delivered to most unvaccinated officers this week, giving them 48 hours to sign off on the conditions or be placed off duty pending disciplinary proceedings to separate them from the force.
“I remain hopeful that these employees will all get vaccinated or enter into the agreement for those intent on filing an exemption,” Moore said.
Neither police nor city officials could immediately provide figures on the number of officers who received or rejected notices this week.
L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva says he won’t force deputies to get inoculated. LAPD chief differs.
McMahon’s reasons for rejecting the mandate weren’t entirely clear.
In his Instagram video, McMahon called the mandate “unjust, unlawful and immoral.”
He alleged the mandate was somehow about “money” for Mayor Eric Garcetti and the City Council, and linked somehow to the billions of dollars in federal aid that the region received as part of a recovery package aimed at diminishing the fiscal impacts of the pandemic and its related shutdowns.
McMahon said L.A. is “entering a grand crisis that there probably is no coming back from,” and added, “the critical-thinking officer, the hardworking officer, those days are just about done, and we are entering a dark phase of American policing.”
The Roll Call 4 Freedom website says the group favors testing requirements over a vaccination mandate, but only on the advice of an attorney.
“While many of us do not want to be tested, nor do we feel that it is necessary, our attorney believes requesting REASONABLE screening and testing will allow us a greater chance of success in litigation and removal of the mandate,” the group’s website said.
In a recent radio interview, McMahon said some in the group have already had COVID-19, believe they still have natural antibodies and want the option of proving that to the department in lieu of getting the vaccine or regularly tested.