12 Mass. troopers fired for refusing COVID vaccine
A local police union had decried the mandate, citing "an already critical shortage of state troopers”
By Jackson Cote
BOSTON — Twelve Massachusetts State Police members, among them one sergeant and 11 troopers, were fired Friday for refusing to abide by the state’s coronavirus vaccine mandate, authorities said.
The terminations followed a hearing process over the 12 members failing to comply with Gov. Charlie Baker’s executive order requiring more than 40,000 state Executive Department employees — including State Police troopers, Department of Correction officers, Department of Children and Families social workers and others — to be vaccinated for COVID-19, State Police spokesperson David Procopio told MassLive in a statement. Under the vaccine mandate, issued in August, employees may apply for medical or religious exemptions.
The troopers terminated Friday are not able to appeal their firings, as they had applied for religious or medical exemptions, and applicants for such waivers are not allowed to appeal once denied an exemption, The Boston Globe reported, citing a spokesperson for the State Police Association of Massachusetts, the union that represents troopers.
“Governor Baker has proven yet again just how hypocritical he is,” the union said in a statement released Friday in the wake of the firings. “As part of a Friday night news dump, he has just terminated at least 12 Troopers due to his vaccine mandate. No appeals. No due process. Just a Governor hell bent on breaking the backs of the State Police who work tirelessly each day to keep the Commonwealth safe.”
SPAM’s criticism of the governor has been ongoing for months since the mandate was announced. Last month, the union sued the state after more than 150 of its members who had applied for a religious exemptions were denied, seven of whom, it alleged, had religious claims acknowledged by State Police as sincere, the Globe reported.
None of the 12 troopers fired Friday are among the seven who are plaintiffs in the ongoing lawsuit, Procopio said.
The union lambasted Baker for the mandate in October, accusing the Republican governor of attacking public safety personnel and “exacerbating an already critical shortage of state troopers.”
“His clear and petty animosity has been on full display for months now,” SPAM said Friday about Baker. “While he closes COVID testing sites, asked that the State House be reopen without a mandate and has generally shown that we are in the endemic phase of COVID-19, he is still insisting on firing at least 12 Troopers from an already short staffed department. The Troopers deserve better. The Commonwealth deserves better. And, Charlie Baker should be ashamed.”
As of late February, more than 1,000 state employees had been fired or had quit over the mandate, which required all Executive Department workers to be fully vaccinated by mid-October. Of the 1,013 employee who lost their jobs, 160 were part-time contractors with the Municipal Police Training Committee.
In October, a spokesperson for SPAM noted that although the majority of State Police members are vaccinated, 186 troopers sought religious exemptions, and another 14 requested medical waivers.
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