After several Leesburg Police Department officers made headlines for their opposition to a COVID-19 vaccine mandate being considered by the Town Council, some of their colleagues are throwing support behind it.
Loudoun Nowreceived a copy of the letter penned by the eight officers via a Freedom of Information Act request. The letter was sent to the full council Oct. 7 and signed by Master Police Officer Detective John Mocello, Sgt. Daniel Troxell, MPO Matthew Hackney, Officer Jason Nicodemus, Det. Marco Pereira, Det. Mirza Kadric, MPO Dave Payne, and Det. Kristine Rzewnicki. Both Mocello and Rzewnicki also identify themselves as town residents.
The letter begins that the aforementioned officers put “great thought” in penning the letter followingtheir three colleagues’ comments against the mandate at the council’s Sept. 28 meeting. They emphasize that the opinions shared in the letter are theirs alone, and not reflective of the sentiment of the entire department, and make the same characterization of the comments made by the three officers during the petitioners section of the recent council meeting.
The officers point out that there are already a number of vaccines that are mandatory for their employment by the Town of Leesburg and that adding the COVID-19 vaccine to that list, “will not dismantle the police department as it was described to you on Sept. 28.”
“In fact, if an argument must be made, it should be that a vaccine mandate would save officers’ lives as COVID-19 was the leading cause of law enforcement deaths in the first six months of 2021,” the letter continued.
The letter goes on to reveal that several currently unvaccinated officers within the department have indicated they would get the vaccineshould the council go forward with the mandate it is considering.
“Many of us feel the vaccine is another tool to protect us and save lives just as wearing our seatbelt or our bulletproof vest protects us. We respect law and regulation. In fact, our purpose as a profession is to enforce laws and regulations that we often do not have a say in drafting. At times, we may not agree with the law or regulation enacted, but it is our duty and oath to follow and enforce it. We respect that it is under the council’s authority to make this mandate and please know that the majority of us will follow it when it is enacted,” the letter stated.
The letter closes by emphasizing that, even if some officers choose to leave the department if the vaccine mandate passes, it will not change the level or quality of service delivered to Leesburg residents.
“The town provides many benefits and an environment of success that will prevent the levels purported last week [in comments made at the council meeting]. Further, within the last 10 years, there have been times when the police department’s staffing levels have dropped alarmingly low, vacancies nearing 20%, if not more. Even in those challenging times one thing did not change and that is the quality of service that was provided to the citizens of Leesburg by your police department. Your officers stepped up to the challenge and toed the line to ensure order and safety in the town. Your officers do this every day. Citizens will not notice a difference in the service that they receive if a few of our respected brothers or sisters decide to the leave the department because of this mandate,” the letter stated in closing.
During its Oct. 12 meeting, the Town Council is expected to continue discussion of a potential vaccine mandate for the town’s full- and part-time employees, along with contractors who interact with staff and the public, and the town’s appointed board and commission members. A vote could happen as early as that evening. At the council’s Sept. 27 work session, those in favor of the vaccine mandate favored a 90-day timeline for compliance.
A copy of the letter sent to the council may be viewed here.