Hours before the deadline for all New York City municipal employees to get COVID-19 vaccines, the NYC Police Pension Fund held a drive Friday morning for officers who wanted to retire rather than take the shots. All city employees must have their first dose by this afternoon or face unpaid leave on Monday.
At least 10 police officers and two sergeants filed for retirement during the first hour of the drive, multiple officers confirmed before a WNYC/Gothamist reporter was asked to leave the event. An NYPD spokesperson declined to provide updates about the total number of retirements as of this afternoon.
An administrative bulletin sent by NYPD leadership on Thursday described the event in the auditorium at 1 Police Plaza as a chance “to assist members who wish to retire due to the vaccination mandates.”
As New York City prepares to implement its expanded vaccine mandate, officials across a range of agencies — including police, firefighters and sanitation — are bracing for possible worker shortages come Monday.
Pat Lynch, the president of the Police Benevolent Association, which unsuccessfully sued to block the requirement, has warned that the new mandate will result in “fewer cops available to protect our city.”
But Police Commissioner Dermot Shea sought to downplay fears on Friday, telling Fox 5 that the department had contingency plans in place — including reassigning personnel to patrol shifts, scaling back some administrative functions and suspending training. Based on current city data, about 10,000 NYPD employees remain unvaccinated, while 4,600 have taken shots since the mandate’s announcement.
The department may also be forced to increase the number of overtime shifts and lengthen their duration, though Shea said he was “trying to avoid that.” The NYPD spent nearly 40% of its annual overtime budget in the first three months of the fiscal year, according to figures provided by the Independent Budget Office.
“New Yorkers should not be worried about this,” Shea added, noting that he expected vaccine rates would continue to grow ahead of the deadline. “I think human nature, people put things off.”
Eighty percent of NYPD members have now received at least one shot of the vaccine, a six percent increase from Wednesday. But the rate is believed to be lower among street cops.
As officers in street clothes trickled into the retirement event, a separate vaccination drive was being held simultaneously on an upper floor of the building.
One police officer, who asked for anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak to the press, said the department’s unusual “retirement fair” underscored the NYPD’s commitment to cutting ties with members that remain staunchly anti-vaccine.
“It definitely shows the department is serious about trimming the numbers,” said the officer, who supports the mandate. “They wouldn’t do this if they wanted those retiring to come back.”
The retirement event, which is scheduled to last all day, is aimed at those with at least 20 years in the job, who qualify for full pension health benefits. A second event will be held Saturday for police personnel with less than two decades on the job.