Nearly two weeks after the Sept. 30 deadline for Denver's city workers to get fully inoculated against COVID-19, data provided to The Denver Gazette shows a tiny sliver of employees in the city's safety agencies resigned or retired due to the vaccine mandate.
According to data from the Department of Safety's records administrator on sworn safety employees, the mandate has resulted in 15 resignations or retirements among police officers, seven in the sheriff's department and five in the fire department.
City data shows the safety agencies each had at least 96% compliance with the mandate by Oct. 8. But the sheriff's department had one of the lowest rates of compliance among all city agencies listed, at 96.7%.
The mandate imposes a 10-day unpaid suspension for city employees who didn't comply by the deadline but were "receptive" to vaccination, and the penalty escalates to firing for those who still refuse after the suspension. The "presumptive" penalty for employees who refuse to get vaccinated under any circumstances is termination, records administrator Andrea Webber wrote in an email.
Anyone terminated cannot return to work for the city for five years.
Webber said "contemplation of discipline" meetings were scheduled for four police department employees, six in the fire department, 21 in the sheriff's department, one in 911 dispatch and two in the Executive Director of Safety's office.
Numbers provided by Webber on Tuesday did not include how many employees received exemptions from the mandate for religious or medical reasons.
The resignations and retirements from the safety agencies don't mark an exodus of the scale a Denver attorney implied might come in a lawsuit filed in September on behalf of seven police officers who claimed the city exceeded its authority with the vaccine mandate.
The lawsuit claimed “hundreds” of Denver police officers reached out to the attorneys to be included in the lawsuit and that many considered quitting.
Denver District Court Judge Shelley Gilman threw out the lawsuit, saying they the plaintiffs first needed to appeal the vaccine mandate to the Board of Public Health and Environment before bringing their challenge to court.
By Oct. 1, 98.6 percent of city employees had submitted proof of vaccination or an approved exemption, according to city data. Among the rest, the city approved 643 exemption requests and was still approving seven, according to data updated Oct. 8.
Data shows the following compliance rates for Denver's safety agencies:
- Police department: 98.8%
- Fire department: 99.8%
- Sheriff's department: 96.7%
- Department of Safety: 98.8%
“The goal of the plan is to gain compliance through progressive discipline with employees who are receptive and enforcing the mandate against those who are not,” the city's Department of Public Health and Environment said in late September.
"We've ordered face coverings to be worn, we've had a series of testing regimens, we've tried a stay-at-home order, we've tried capacity limits," department executive director Bob McDonald said when the mandate was announced in August. “We've tried all of those things, and a year and a half later, after all of that, here we are.”
Spokespeople for the city did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday evening.