Monday, October 18, 2021
Oct. 18, 2021

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Can Portland force police officers to vaccinate?

Mayor says state law prohibits it, despite city’s new mandate


PORTLAND — Mayor Ted Wheeler confirmed Wednesday that state law prohibits Portland from requiring police officers to get vaccinated against COVID-19 despite a new city mandate.

Wheeler told The Oregonian/OregonLive he’s disappointed that all city employees can’t be held to the same vaccine requirement and urges police to get vaccinated.

The Portland Police Bureau has said it doesn’t have vaccination rates for its officers.

The city attorney’s office said Tuesday the order requiring police to be vaccinated had become legally dubious because of new guidance from the Oregon Health Authority.

Under Oregon law, local municipalities can issue vaccine mandates for police officers only if a federal or state rule requires it. The city believed Gov. Kate Brown’s vaccination mandate issued in August for state health care workers covered police because they receive some medical training as part of their job.

But the guidance said officers probably are exempt because providing medical care is “likely not a fundamental part of their job.”

Last week, the Portland City Council said it decided that by Sept. 10, the city’s approximately 6,800 employees would have to submit proof of vaccination, show they are in the process of being vaccinated or apply for an exemption. If not, they could lose their jobs.