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Mayor: Portland can’t require COVID-19 vaccination for cops

September 9, 2021 GMT

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Mayor Ted Wheeler confirmed Wednesday that state law prohibits Portland from requiring police officers to get vaccinated against COVID-19 despite a new city mandate.

Wheeler told The Oregonian/OregonLive he’s disappointed that all city employees can’t be held to the same vaccine requirement and urges police to get vaccinated.

The Portland Police Bureau has said it doesn’t have vaccination rates for its officers.

The city attorney’s office said Tuesday the order requiring police to be vaccinated had become legally dubious because of new guidance from the Oregon Health Authority.

Under Oregon law, local municipalities can only issue vaccine mandates for police officers if a federal or state rule requires it. The city believed Gov. Kate Brown’s vaccination mandate issued in August for state health care workers covered police because they receive some medical training as part of their job.

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But the guidance said officers are most likely exempt because providing medical care is “likely not a fundamental part of their job.”

Last week, the Portland City Council said it decided that by Sept. 10 the city’s approximately 6,800 employees would have to submit proof of vaccination, show they are in the process of being vaccinated or apply for an exemption. If not they could lose their jobs.

“The City will continue to implement its vaccine requirement, but will ensure it is consistent with state law,” Wheeler said.