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Los Angeles County's democratic sheriff says he won't enforce county's vaccine mandate because he can't afford to lose officers due to defunding efforts

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Al Seib / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Democratic Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva says that he does not plan to enforce the county's vaccine requirement for his own deputies because he cannot afford to lose any additional deputies due to the county's attempts to reduce funding for his department.

In August, Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chair Hilda Solis issued an executive order requiring all county employees to be vaccinated by October 1st, without allowing for any exceptions, except for certain narrowly-defined medical and religious reasons.

In his weekly question and answer session with local media earlier this week, Villanueva explained why he would not be enforcing the order among his own deputies. While he stated that he himself is vaccinated and that he is strongly encouraging his deputies to be vaccinated, he noted that the county budget for 2021-22 cuts his department's budget by about 4 percent, which forces him to "pick and choose" which mandates from the county to enforce.

Appearing on Fox News Friday night, Villanueva explained that his department was already short-staffed by about 1,000 employees when it was hit with what he called a "politically motivated" hiring freeze in response to the Black Lives Matter protests last year.

With further cuts to his department coming next year, Villanueva said that he considered the personnel situation in his department to be a public safety issue, and that he could not in good conscience allow his department to lose more officers due to vaccine-hesitancy. Villanueva estimated that approximately 5-10 percent of his force has indicated that they will refuse to get the vaccine, and that "hundreds" of them have told him personally that they would rather lose their jobs than get the vaccine. Villanueva went on to call the mandate "politicized" as well as "poorly thought out [and] poorly executed."

"This issue has become so politicized, there are entire groups of employees that are willing to be fired and laid off rather than get vaccinated," Villanueva said earlier this week, according to Deadline. "So I don't want to be in a position to lose 5-10% of my workforce overnight."

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has not yet publicly responded to Villanueva's defiance of their order.

Separately, a group of Los Angeles Police Department employees sued last month over the city's vaccine mandate, alleging that the mandate violated their federal statutory and constitutional rights.

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