A D.C. Superior Court judge Wednesday refused to block the District’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate affecting police officers.
Judge Joan Zeldon denied the request for a temporary restraining order from the Fraternal Order of Police, the Metropolitan Police Department Labor Committee, the D.C. Police Union and four officers, writing that the plaintiffs’ request did not meet the court’s criteria for such orders.
For instance, Zeldon wrote, police would not be “in danger of suffering irreparable harm” if a temporary restraining order were not granted.
COVID-19 vaccines, Zeldon wrote, have been given to millions of people.
“Plaintiffs argue that vaccine is an irreversible medical procedure with a risk of serious medical consequence, and it violates their right to bodily integrity and personal autonomy,” Zeldon wrote. “These assertions, though deeply felt by officers who are resisting vaccination, are speculative.”
Under D.C.’s mandate, officers who failed to comply with it by Feb. 15 would be subject to discipline, but Zeldon pointed out that no action could be taken until a month later, March 15, and that removal of an employee would follow a series of steps, beginning with “verbal counseling.”
“While this judge is sympathetic to an officer who does not want a disciplinary action that may be brought in the future on his or her record,” Zeldon wrote, “the choice of whether or not to be subject to a vaccine enforcement process is the officer’s.”
In addition, such an order would not serve the public interest, the judge wrote, and D.C.’s interest in protecting the health and safety of its employees and the public from coronavirus “outweighs the potential harms plaintiffs allege they face.”
An administrative challenge to the vaccine policy is now before the Public Employee Relations Board, which handles labor disputes between D.C. agencies and employees. That challenge is being handled by the Office of Labor Relations and Collective Bargaining and the mayor’s office.
D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine reacted to the decision on Twitter.
Good news: My office successfully defended against an attempt to block the District’s requirement that all Metropolitan Police Officers get COVID-19 vaccines and timely booster shots.
This requirement will help keep District residents safe and healthy as the pandemic continues.
— AG Karl A. Racine (@AGKarlRacine) February 23, 2022
WTOP has reached out to the plaintiffs’ attorneys for comment.
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