WATCH: 10-Year SDPD Veteran Turns In Badge Over COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate

The deadline for employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 is Dec. 1. After that employees may begin facing discipline

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Nov. 5, 2021 marked the last day on the job for Brandon Gibson, a now former member of the San Diego Police Department.

Gibson tells NBC 7 that after spending 10 years with the department, most of which was spent as a sniper on the department's SWAT team, that his decision to turn in his badge boiled down to the city's vaccine mandate and upcoming deadline.

Gibson says he is not alone. Several of his former fellow officers are facing this difficult decision as well.

“People are not anti-vaccination or anything like this. This has nothing to do with political party lines. They just have legitimate concerns about their personal health," Gibson said.

The city’s most recent vaccination statistics might support that.

The city confirmed that as of Sept. 29, nearly 72% of the city's more than 11,000 employees reported they had been vaccinated. By Nov. 17, that number had risen to more than 76%.

Of the 2,209 city employees who are not fully vaccinated, 730 of them belong to the city's police union. This group represents 36.8% of total police union members.

Come Dec. 1, any city of San Diego employees who remain unvaccinated may begin facing discipline unless they have begun the vaccination process or have submitted a request for medical or religious exemption.

The city of San Diego opened a 30-day window for its employees to submit COVID-19 vaccine exemption requests.

The exemptions allowed are described as:

  • Medical Exemption: If an employee has a disability or medical condition that makes it medically inadvisable for them to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, as verified by their health care provider.
  • Religious Exemption: If an employee has a sincerely held religious belief, observance or practice that prevents them from receiving a COVID19 vaccine.

The review process for each employee's request will be an "interactive process involving review of the employee's written submissions as well as communications with the employee to determine the employee's circumstances and potential appropriate accommodations," the city wrote in a letter sent to City employees in late October.

“Losing a number of people to this mandate could be crippling," San Diego Police Officers Association President Jack Schaeffer told NBC 7. “[The vaccine mandate] is definitely going to have a detrimental effect. We are already understaffed as a police department and you are seeing that all across the state."

The issue came up this week after the Police Officers Association president blamed a staff shortage for slow response times on Halloween.

Mayor Todd Gloria fired back, saying it had to do with the unusual increase in service calls.

"Delays in responding to 911 calls are due to an increased volume of emergency calls. The amount of emergency calls on Sunday, November 14, 2021 alone increased by nearly 90% when compared to the year before," wrote Nick Serrano, Deputy Chief of Staff to Mayor Todd Gloria, in a statement sent to NBC 7.

"The Mayor has worked to ensure the City of San Diego is a competitive and desirable employer for police officers through investing in training academies, higher wages and pension benefits. As a result of these efforts, 47 recruits started the police academy just last week with another 46 who will graduate in January. We also have another 90 officers who are currently in field training. This shows that even with the proposed vaccine mandate, we continue to attract officers to serve our city. We will continue to do whatever it takes to make sure residents are safe and able to access police services," added Serrano.

Schaffer also expressed concern for whether or not his association's officers would be able to provide the same level of service the community is used to if officers leave the department as a result of the vaccine mandate.

“I don’t know how we’ll provide the level of service San Diegans are used to if we lose officers to vaccine mandates," Schaeffer said.

Schaeffer says the city has shown a willingness to relax the deadline somewhat. According to the POA President, officers just need to start the vaccination process by the Dec. 1 to stay on the job.

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