On Tuesday, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported that the Portland Police Department could receive an exemption from the vaccine mandate that applies to all citywide employees — following counsel from the city attorney's office that applying the mandate to police may not be legal.
"Under Oregon law, local municipalities can only issue vaccine mandates for firefighters and police officers if there is already a federal or state rule in place that requires it, per an email from deputy city attorney Heidi Brown," reported Rebecca Ellis. "The city believed that requirement came on August 19 when Gov. Kate Brown issued a vaccination mandate for the state's healthcare workers."
At issue is whether police can be fairly classified as healthcare workers.
"The city felt the Governor's definition of health care workers was broad enough to cover police officers, who receive some medical training," Oregon Public Broadcasting explains. "The city attorney's office advised the city to move forward with a citywide vaccination mandate that included police."
The city attorney, however, has advised that police do not meet the definition of the governor's order, because although police do have some medical training, providing medical care is not "a fundamental part of their job."
Police departments around the country are threatened by COVID-19, with 29 officers dying of the disease in Florida police departments alone. Despite this, a number of police unions are opposed to their officers being covered by vaccine mandates.