Opinion: Stamford mayor's vaccine mandate troubles police union board

Posted by 11/05/2021
Luis Serna

On Aug. 6, Stamford Mayor David Martin announced an executive order mandating that all city employees be vaccinated for COVID-19 or be subject to weekly testing. The Stamford Police Association is deeply troubled by this course of action, which is rooted in hysteria and is an overreaction. Within a week, it was proven to be a hypocritical display of political theater.

With the swoop of a pen, Mayor Martin, who is in a hotly contested re-election campaign, decided that he and his administration of bureaucrats should have the ultimate say in the personal decisions his employees make, merely because we are employed by the city. The mayor is pushing this agenda under the guise that it is his responsibility to keep his employees, and the citizens they interact with, safe from the spread of COVID.

In March 2020, when COVID first hit Stamford and fear in the community was palpable, it was city employees such as the Stamford Police Department and the Stamford Fire Department, along with the many workers of the Office of Operations in Stamford, who answered the call, gauging our risks while providing valuable services to the city and its residents — all while the mayor and his staff worked remotely.

As essential workers, we battled COVID head on, often contracting the virus ourselves and/or bringing it home to our families. Now that the heavy lifting has been done, we’re being told we no longer have our personal autonomy anymore?

The mayor claims the vaccine mandates, as well as the new indoor mask policy issued Aug. 10, are in direct response to the surge in cases from the delta variant in Stamford. But in January of this year, vaccine distribution was available to all first responders and health care workers in the city, but no mandate was issued, even when cases in Fairfield County were soaring far higher than their current levels. In March, after a dip in cases, Fairfield County saw another surge. Still no mandate from the city. As of Aug. 16, there were only 285 total hospitalizations statewide in a state of approximately 3.6 million people. Where has this change in urgency come from? Where is the emergency?

Meanwhile, within a week of issuing his mandate, a food festival held at Mill River Park drew more than 4,000 people in a confined space. The mayor allowed the festival to go on but hid behind his mask mandate. He said the event would require masks since the capacity was over 100 people, but anyone within a bird’s eye view of the event could see the mandate was not being enforced by the city.

This was the kickoff event on the city schedule that includes similar large-scale events this summer, leading into the Alive@Five concert series scheduled for September. How can the mayor’s intentions be taken seriously when he apparently thinks the current delta situation is so dire as to warrant removing the ability of his employees to make their own personal decisions outside of the workforce, yet it is completely fine to conduct mass-gathering, super-spreader events for the next six weeks?

The mayor has the right to facilitate these community events because they are often what makes Stamford the vibrant city it is, and we support the economic growth and entertainment the city can provide. However, we do not support the mixed signals coming from the mayor’s office at this time. Police officers, if unvaccinated, many of whom possess natural immunity after already being infected with COVID, have to wear masks if they are sitting next to each other in patrol vehicles or inside their unit offices. Four thousand patrons with unknown vaccination statuses and no masks can drink beers and scream on top of each other in Mill River Park. It is deplorable that the mayor has more faith in the personal decisions of intoxicated concert-goers than he does for the men and women who executed the very COVID response the mayor takes all the credit for leading. The main difference between these two groups is one group the mayor can control for political points.

The mayor apparently gets to use his discretion to decide which scenarios are and are not dangerous for his employees and constituents, even when lacking convincing scientific evidence. It is shameful his employees, who have personally sacrificed, are not afforded the respect of having the same discretion.

David O’Meara is vice president of the Stamford Police Association. He works in the Bureau of Criminal Investigations. This letter was approved by the Stamford Police Association executive board.