Officer of nearly 30 years resigns over COVID-19 vaccine mandate

Published: Sep. 21, 2021 at 4:58 AM EDT
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SAN JOSE, Calif. (KPIX) - A veteran police officer from San Jose, California, is hanging up his badge over the requirement that all city employees be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Sgt. David Gutierrez has been a police officer for almost 29 years, but he decided to end his long and successful law enforcement career with the San Jose Police Department over the city’s new vaccine mandate.

“First of all, it’s my religious belief. I also believe I’ve been given a choice about what to do with my body,” Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez spent years rising through the ranks, working as a homicide detective, internal affairs investigator and patrol supervisor, before retiring in 2019. He then returned to the force as a reserve officer.

He submitted his letter of resignation ahead of the city’s Sept. 30 deadline for employees to be fully vaccinated.

“I’m not anti-vaccine. I don’t tell people, ‘You shouldn’t get it.’ But when it comes to my body, it’s my choice about what I want to put in my body,” Gutierrez said.

Mayor Sam Liccardo says the vaccine policy is working. The police department’s vaccination rate has increased from 82% to 85% since it was announced.

“This is certainly for the protection of the individual members of our city team. But it’s also, critically, for the safety of our entire community because we know, obviously, first responders are out there interacting [with the public] every day,” Liccardo said.

The police officer’s association says there are roughly 150 officers who are currently unvaccinated or have not disclosed their vaccination status to the city. Losing even a fraction of them would be a blow to a department that’s chronically understaffed.

“If they let go police officers who’ve been here five years, 10 years, 15 years, you can hire somebody else, but you’re not going to hire that experience though,” Gutierrez said.

Liccardo believes a large exodus of unvaccinated workers from the police department is unlikely.

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