Following in the footsteps of many state and municipal governments before them, the city of Denver issued a vaccine mandate for all municipal employees on August 2nd. It was to take effect this month. This led a group of seven unvaccinated Denver Police officers to file a lawsuit asking for the mandate to be put on hold and for a lengthier process endorsed by the state government to be followed. But this week, 2nd Judicial District Court Judge Shelley Gilman ruled against the officers, allowing the mandate to take effect. While an appeal is possible, similar suits around the country have been failing repeatedly, so this may be the end of the line for these officers, and possibly the end of their careers as well. (Associated Press)
A judge on Wednesday dismissed an attempt by a group of Denver police officers to block the city’s vaccine mandate from taking effect.
In a lawsuit filed last week, seven officers claimed the city lacked the authority to impose the mandate under a local disaster emergency declared by Mayor Michael Hancock at the beginning of the pandemic. They noted Democratic Gov. Jared Polis rescinded his statewide emergency pandemic order in July.
The officers said the city should have instead followed the more drawn-out process laid out in state law to impose regulations.
The police officers involved in this lawsuit may have a bigger problem with their own legal team than they do with the city government. Judge Gilman’s ruling had little to do with the vaccine mandate itself, finding fault instead with where and how the lawsuit was filed. While the officers were basing their claim on the premise that the city lacked the authority to issue such a mandate under a municipal disaster emergency declaration, the mandate was nevertheless a declaration of the government of the city of Denver.
The judge ruled that the state law the plaintiffs wanted the city to follow only applied to state agencies. If they wanted to challenge it, they should have first gone through the process of appealing the mandate to the municipal health board and, if required, to the City Council before filing their suit. It was obviously unlikely that they would have met with success there since it was the city government that approved the mandate in the first place, but the judge was clearly being a stickler on procedural matters.
I’m not sure how this is relevant, but the city also argued that four of the seven officers have already been granted exemptions to the mandate. A fifth officer was denied an exemption for failing to supply an acceptable reason for needing one.
The mandate goes into effect today. Under the city’s ominous sounding “discipline plan” released at the beginning of the month, the officers, along with all other workers who refuse to comply, will be sent letters informing them of impending disciplinary action. Failure to comply will result first in a ten-day suspension without pay. If after ten days the employee still fails to produce proof of vaccination, they will be discharged.
On an interesting side note, both the city and the state had previously issued temporary disaster emergency declarations. The state has since rescinded theirs, but the city of Denver has not. It still sounds to me as if there should be a way around this for the officers who refuse to comply, but with legislative power being effectively tabled under these declared states of emergency, their options may be limited.
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