In a letter to the L.A. County Board of Supervisors, Sheriff Alex Villanueva said the COVID-19 vaccine mandate on county workers was causing a “mass exodus” within the Sheriff’s Dept.

Villanueva said 20% to 30% of the 18,000 dept. employees are “no longer available,” with employees retiring, filing worker compensation claims and quitting. He also added the dept. is not seeing enough qualified applicants to replace the leaving employees.

Because of this, the sheriff said he believed there would be an “imminent threat to public safety.”

“As a result, homicide rates will continue to rise, response times will increase, solve rates will diminish, arrests will decline, patrol services will significantly decline, and patrol stations will close,” Villanueva said in a statement Thursday. “This unintended consequence to public safety was predictable. In the near future, unless something changes, the “defunded” and “de-staffed” Sheriff’s Department will no longer be able to sustain the staffing levels required to maintain public safety at the status quo.”

Villanueva called the mandate unjustified and said employees are already asked to wear masks and take COVID-19 tests.

“Unlike other County departments that can close their doors and merely cause an inconvenience to the general public, the department operates 24/7 to protect the public,” Villanueva said in his letter to the Board.

The executive order mandating county workers to show proof of vaccination was announced on August 4 by L.A. County Board of Supervisors Chair Hilda Solis.

“… we are once again demonstrating to employers across the County that we are prepared to lead by example and set a standard for slowing the spread – just as we did when reinstating indoor masking, which has since been emulated by varying degrees by the CDC, the State, and localities across the country,” Solis said while announcing the order. “We must all be prepared to come together and do our part to protect one another and get this virus under control once more.”

The mandate applied to more than 110,000 county employees.

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