RICHMOND, Va. -- The President of the Richmond Coalition of Police (RCOP), an organization that represents more than 300 Richmond Police officers, sergeants, and lieutenants, said the organization supports not only COVID-19 vaccines but also the mandate issued by Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney that all city workers get vaccinated.
RCOP President Brendan Leavy said he called Monday's press conference to clarify some previous statements he feared were taken out of context.
"RCOP is not against the vaccine mandate. I am fully vaccinated, I signed up to get the vaccine as soon as it was available months ago, RCOP has communicated to all of our members encouraging them to get vaccinated multiple times," Leavy said. "RCOP was concerned when the mayor came out with a vaccine mandate because there were little details that go along with it. Multiple reporters reached out to us for a statement. We cannot be for or against something that we did not know what the disciplinary actions would be. We were not aware if exemptions would even exist, we just wanted clarification."
Leavy said officers who remain unvaccinated have sought exemptions for religious or health reasons.
He said he did not believe the city-wide mandate swayed officers one way or the other.
"I don't think any officers have any reservations for the vaccines. They've either decided that they will choose not to get vaccinated under those exemptions or they've already been vaccinated," Leavy said. "RCOP is still concerned about the administrative side of things concerning the vaccine. Officers that have been vaccinated and that had submitted their vaccination cards correctly into the city websites have received emails that they have not actually done so. This is worrisome. Officers have also reached out with concerns that they do not want to share their personal medical information on the city servers."
Leavy said RCOP would like to work with the city to find an alternative such as "showing our vaccination cards, in person, to our supervisors."
"We've encouraged members to get vaccinated, and if they choose to do the exemptions, that we also support," Leavy said. "We're not against the mandate. We're not against the vaccine."
Last week RCOP’s vice president, Police Pilot Carl Scott, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that RCOP opposed a lack of transparency about repercussions for officers who don’t get vaccinated.
Mayor Stoney had previously said city employees who refuse the vaccine face the potential for disciplinary action up to leave without pay or termination.
Jim Nolan, Mayor Stoney's press secretary, provided the following statement regarding Richmond's vaccination mandate.
Vaccination is proven to be the most effective way to prevent severe illness and death from this deadly virus. As such, we have a responsibility to keep our city employees and the residents they serve, safe. Our policy is designed to do so.
All employees were provided with notification of the policy as well as FAQs and information on how the process works to ensure consistency and equity, so there should be no confusion as to how this works or need to apply a different set of rules.
For instance, here is an excerpt from our FAQs that clarifies the Medical Info concern raised by RCOP:
Who will have access to my medical information once I upload my documents to RAPIDS?
Answer: Medical documentation, ie., information provided by a medical practitioner will not be uploaded in RAPIDS. The document requesting a medical exemption is the document that you will upload which does not request individuals to disclose medical information.
City employees have been fully aware that non-compliance with the vaccination policy, which allows for both medical and religious exemptions, would be subject to progressive discipline that includes being placed on leave without pay and could lead to termination.
Nolan said that employees who didn't update their vaccination status by August 18 were notified by Human Resources that they had until September 1 to comply.