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Seven Denver police officers file lawsuit against mayor, police chief, health dept. over vaccine mandate

City employees have until Sept. 30 to be fully vaccinated or face potential termination
Denver Police Department bicycle patrol in face masks, r m
Posted at 4:50 PM, Sep 24, 2021

DENVER – Seven Denver Police Department officers are suing Mayor Michael Hancock, the chief of police and the executive director of Denver’s department of public health from forcing them to get vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of September.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in Denver District Court by attorney Randy Corporon on behalf of Dewayne Rodgers, Bart Stark, Rich Ziegler, Nick Elliott, David Curtis, Les Tucker, and Jonathan Christian, alleges that Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and Denver Department of Public Health and Environment executive director Bob McDonald do not have the legal authority to require city employees, school staff, and others in congregate care settings to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of September.

“There are hundreds of Denver Police Officers who reached out to undersigned counsel to be included in this litigation,” the complaint claims, further stating many of the officers are considering rendering their resignations once the Sept. 30 deadline arrives. “Undoubtedly, the public would be adversely affected by a sudden mass migration of police officers.”

But data released Friday by the City of Denver shows more than 1,400 full-time employees of the Denver Police Department are inoculated against COVID-19, which translates to about 83% of the workforce. Citywide, 92% of all people employed by the city have received their shots.

Employees had until the first week of September to request a vaccine exemption and until Sept. 15 to receive a single-dose of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine or complete the two-dose regimen for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

The lawsuit states Denver Chief of Police Paul Pazen has placed disciplinary guidelines for officers who do not comply with the vaccine mandate: Employees found to be non-compliant will be subject to an immediate ten-day non-paid suspension. If after ten days employees still do not comply, they will be terminated, according to the documents.

Officers who are fired for failing to get vaccinated would not be able to work with the department for five years, attorneys for the defendants said.

“The clear, immediate threat of irreparable harm to Plaintiffs regarding compliance with an unlawful public health order which mandates a medical procedure, including the punitive nature of the 'reasonable accommodations' – coupled with the strong public interest of retaining adequate numbers of police officers – weigh heavily in favor of the requested injunctive relief,” attorneys for the officers’ state in the lawsuit.

So far, city employees have submitted a total of 773 vaccine exemption requests. Out of those, 627 were approved and 52 were denied. Sixty-eight are still under review.

Denver7 reached out to the Denver Attorney’s Office who said in a statement Friday they could not comment on the matter.