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St. Louis County Police Department Finalizing Vaccine Mandate Even With A ‘Gray Area’

A St. Louis County Police car drives through the frame with its lights on.
Paul Sableman | Flickr
The St. Louis County Police Department is working out the details of how a COVID-19 vaccine mandate would work.

The head of the St. Louis County Police Department is finalizing guidelines to either have officers get the COVID-19 vaccine or face testing.

But there’s disagreement over how such a new law would affect the police department, with even St. Louis County Executive Sam Page acknowledging that it’s a “gray area.”

Page signed legislation into law last week requiring county employees to either show proof that they’ve been vaccinated or undergo periodic testing for the virus. St. Louis County Police Board Commissioner Michelle Schwerin said the department was finalizing an order about how the mandate would work.

“The department is requiring that department members (1) confirm that they are vaccinated; (2) become vaccinated and confirm their status; or (3) wear a mask and submit a periodic COVID test,” Schwerin wrote in an email to St. Louis Public Radio.

Sgt. Tracy Panus said the order is set to go into effect Oct. 1.

But Matt Crecelius, business manager for the St. Louis County Police Association, said his union opposes COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

“We’re opposed to any mandates — testing, vaccines or otherwise,” he said. “We believe it’s a personal choice between the employee and their doctor. That’s as simple as we could put it.”

Crecelius told members of the county council earlier this month that it was his understanding that the Board of Police Commissioners had to act in order for a vaccine mandate to be put in place.

“I am of the opinion because it has come up numerous times in the past that even if the council did pass this bill, it would have to go through the police board,” Crecelius said during a September meeting of the council’s Committee of the Whole. “We’ve had numerous issues in the last 18 years where the county council has passed resolutions or ordinances or whatnot. And unless they are adopted by the police board, they don’t get enacted. I think the county charter is pretty clear on that.”

Asked about that point, Schwerin said, “It is the Board's understanding that the ordinance applies to the police department as enacted.”

During a press conference on Monday, Page said he would discuss the vaccine mandate issue with the Board of Police Commissioners.

“We certainly know that police are out in the community a lot. And folks in St. Louis County would expect them to be vaccinated as well,” Page said.

“And we’ll get through this,” he added. “The current guidance from the federal government is vaccine or testing. And St. Louis County and most employers in our region will follow that vaccine or testing guidance. We understand that there will be some discomfort with that. There will be some opposition across the country and across county government. It’s certainly human nature, and it’s part of the process.”

Follow Jason on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.

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