Veteran police officer resigns over vaccine mandate in chronically understaffed department

The department has chronically been understaffed and more officers could resign over the mandate

A nearly 30-year police veteran in California resigned over San Jose’s vaccine mandate as the police force continues struggling with chronic understaffing. 

"First of all, it’s my religious belief. I also believe I’ve been given a choice about what to do with my body," Sgt. David Gutierrez said after he resigned from the San Jose Police Department this weekend, KPIX reported

Gutierrez spent 23 years with the San Jose Police Department working as a homicide detective, internal affairs investigator and patrol supervisor, before retiring in 2019. He then returned to the force as a reserve officer. 

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Gutierrez worked his last shift at the department on Saturday, and said he sent a letter to the city manager on Monday denouncing the city’s vaccine mandate, which requires city employees to show proof of vaccination or get a medical exemption. Those who don’t comply face disciplinary action, such as termination.

"Disciplinary action is when you have done something wrong," Gutierrez said, according to NBC Bay Area. "I have done nothing wrong – by making a choice not to be vaccinated why would you be disciplined?"

Gutierrez added that he is not anti-vaccine and would be open to the city testing him on a weekly basis instead of enforcing the vaccine or getting a medical exemption. 

"I’m not anti-vaccine. I don’t tell people, ‘You shouldn’t get it.’ But when it comes to my body, it’s my choice about what I want to put in my body," Gutierrez said.

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He sent his resignation letter ahead of the city’s Sept. 30 deadline for employees to get the vaccine, and said more officers could also walk off the job amid the department already facing understaffing issues. 

"We are already understaffed and can't afford to lose more," Gutierrez said.

"If they let go police officers who’ve been here five years, 10 years, 15 years, you can hire somebody else, but you’re not going to hire that experience though," he added.

A recent audit examining the last 10 years of the police department found the force has heavily relied on overtime as it struggles with understaffing. 

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About 200 officers in the department have so far asked for exemptions, many of which are for religious purposes. But the Democratic mayor, Sam Liccardo, says the vaccine mandate is overall working and doesn’t anticipate an exodus from the force. 

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"This is certainly for the protection of the individual members of our city team. But it’s also, critically, for the safety of our entire community because we know, obviously, first responders are out there interacting [with the public] every day," Liccardo said, according to KPIX.