PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- It is a problem being felt across the country. Police departments are having a hard time keeping their officers. Now, the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association says a new policy is pushing even more officers to quit.
There are currently 365 open positions in the Phoenix Police Department. The union president says some officers are deciding to part ways due to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate being implemented by the City of Phoenix.
“I think morale went from bad to worse,” Britt London, the President of the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, said.
More and more Phoenix cops are on their way out.
“As officers leave the department, it will have to do something very drastic to provide basic services,” London said.
On November 18, the City of Phoenix announced it would require all of its 14,000 employees to be fully vaccinated by January 18.
“It’s an emotional situation for a lot of people,” London said.
During the week of that announcement, ten officers left the department. Eight officers the following week, with a total of 21 leaving in the month of November. Phoenix police said they hired 11 new recruits and one lateral police officer in November. If any changes are made to the vaccine mandate set to take effect in January, London said that could alter the number of officers leaving.
“That’s scary to me. That is scary,” London said.
London said some officers are requesting accommodation for medical or religious reasons.
“There are still things up in the air and legal questions about it, so time will tell,” London said. “It is confusing.”
London said others are frustrated and looking into transferring to other departments.
“It is a benefit for these other cities,” London said.
The Mesa Police Department said they had seen an increase in lateral officer applications. This week alone, eight in-state officers began their lateral academy. Phoenix police said they cannot speculate about any additional separations due to the mandate. London said many officers have called into the union with concerns.
“I think we’re scheduled for 25 more to leave in December,” London said.
About 12% of the department’s positions remain unfilled. London said officers were already departing after a challenging year. Now the mandate is playing a role.
“It seems like it’s just one thing after another, and a lot of people have reached their breaking point,” London said.