Jeramey Jannene
City Hall

Police Union Adopts Vaccine-or-Mask Rule

Unvaccinated officers face termination for failure to comply with mask requirement. Union not happy.

By - Dec 22nd, 2021 12:26 pm
Milwaukee Police Department officer Gary Inman wears a thin blue line mask while directing traffic in June 2020. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Milwaukee Police Department officer Gary Inman wears a thin blue line mask while directing traffic in June 2020. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Milwaukee’s rank-and-file police officers must soon be vaccinated for COVID-19 or wear a mask while on duty.

The policy was voluntarily adopted by the Milwaukee Police Association, the union for officers and detectives.

“At this important time in the COVID pandemic, I am pleased the MPA has agreed to these reasonable steps,” said Mayor Tom Barrett in a statement. “I appreciate the spirit of cooperation the MPA has brought to this matter.”

But it comes more than two months after the Milwaukee Police Supervisors’ Association adopted a similar agreement and weeks after the omicron variant hit the state.

Unvaccinated officers will be required to wear a mask while on duty, except while eating or drinking. Failure to comply with the mask requirement could result in suspension and ultimately termination. The MPA policy goes into effect Jan. 31. The supervisors’ policy was announced Oct. 14 and went into effect Nov. 30.

When the supervisors’ agreement was announced, MPA President Andy Wagner told reporter Alison Dirr that it was “really harsh” and “a slap in the face” to punish non-compliance with termination given the level of violent crime. But his organization has now accepted the penalty.

But Wagner isn’t happy with the agreement.

“The union and its hardworking members are not happy with this agreement and felt pressured into accepting it,” wrote Wagner in a statement provided to Urban Milwaukee. “The City only presented two options to choose from, and would not budge. Option one provided for an exemption to vaccination by agreeing to wear a mask, and option two was that the City would implement a mandatory vaccine requirement resulting in termination for non-compliance. Option two would have led to a drawn out court battle in which our members would have been subject to termination while awaiting a decision. The members were presented with both options and ultimately decided to sign the agreement rather than hang in limbo while awaiting a court decision.”

Wagner is taking particular issue with the nature of the mask requirement and the associated penalties.

“The masking requirements are unreasonable and too restrictive. They do not provide exceptions that may be required while performing police work. We also believe the discipline for failing to wear a mask is unreasonable, a 10-day suspension for the first offense, a 20-day suspension for the second offense, and termination upon the third offense,” he wrote.

The Milwaukee Police Department has approximately 1,700 sworn officers, which includes both rank-and-file members and supervisors.

Already vaccinated MPA members will receive two hours of paid administrative leave. The vaccine-or-mask requirement applies to MPA members, regardless of previous infection status.

The approximately 3,200 general city workers, including civilians within MPD, don’t have the mask option. They were required to be vaccinated by Oct. 29 or face possible suspension or termination. Limited medical or religious exceptions, subject to Department of Employee Relations approval, are available. As of Nov. 1, DER reported that 95.3% of general city workers complied with the vaccine mandate. General city workers lost their collective bargaining power with passage of Governor Scott Walker‘s Act 10 legislation in 2011.

A mask requirement is in place for all city employees, regardless of bargaining or vaccination status, within city buildings.

The MPA agreement is in effect through the end of 2022 unless mutually extended.

The city has not announced an agreement with any union representing Milwaukee Fire Department members.

One thought on “City Hall: Police Union Adopts Vaccine-or-Mask Rule”

  1. tornado75 says:

    man up wagner—the pressure to wear masks is a whole lot better than the pressure sitting on the chest of a covid patient. is that a good deal.

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