COVID-19 killed almost five times as many police officers as gunfire in 2021.
Of the 361 officers who died in the line of duty this year, 231 died of the coronavirus, the police website Officer Down Memorial Page reported.
The virus was the leading killer of officers for the second consecutive year with the next highest death rate going to gunfire with 49 officers losing their lives, according to the organization.
The numbers for 2020 are similar with 245 COVID deaths out of the 374 total with 45 officers killed by gunfire.
A red banner across the top of the website reminds officers of this tragic reality.
"Getting vaccinated is just as important as wearing your vest and your seatbelt," the banner reads. "Don't wait any longer, please consult your doctor to see if vaccination is right for you."
Despite being among the first groups eligible to get the vaccine at the end of 2020, and the current vaccine mandates, many police departments have seen a vaccination rate of only 50% or so.
Big cities like Chicago, Los Angeles, and Baltimore are clashing with police unions over vaccine mandates, some that threaten firing the officers, and others that will not allow them to come to work.
Baltimore city officers are now required to report their vaccine status to the city but are being told to defy that policy by its union.
"It is understandable that our members have questions about a policy with so little information being provided by the city," Sgt. Mike Mancuso, president of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) Lodge 3, said in the letter to members reported by Baltimore radio station WBAL on Saturday. "Until the city responds to our right to bargain these issues, or the courts intervene, I suggest you do nothing regarding revealing your vaccination status as it is outlined in the city's policy."
Police in Chicago are also going head-to-head with Mayor Lori Lightfoot regarding the vaccination mandate in that city.
Lightfoot's administration filed a complaint against the police union there for advising members to not report their vaccination status, calling it an "illegal strike."
The union rebuffed that in a statement Friday.
"[Union] President John Catanzara has never engaged in, supported, or encouraged a work stoppage," the union's statement said.
Lightfoot put out her own statement, accusing the union of promoting "conspiracy theories" about what the policy means.
"As Chicago's mayor, I cannot and will not stand idly by while the rhetoric of conspiracy theorists threatens the health and safety of Chicago's residents and first responders," Lightfoot said in a statement. "President Catanzara has time and again deliberately misled our police officers by lying."
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