A lawsuit brought by Los Angeles police officers challenging the city’s COVID-19 vaccination and testing mandate has been dismissed by a federal judge who rejected outright the officers' claims that it violated their constitutional rights.
U.S. District Court Judge R. Gary Klausner said the 13 suing officers could reassert their claims of religious discrimination if they had any evidence to prove it, the Los Angeles Times reported.
City attorney Mike Feuer lauded the judge’s ruling. "With the omicron variant raging, this victory for public health and safety comes at an especially crucial time," Feuer said. "With record numbers of COVID-19 cases each day, it is more important than ever that the first responders we trust to keep us safe comply with the vaccine mandate."
Daniel Watkins, an attorney for the officers, said they were "reviewing the court’s ruling and determining next steps."
The Los Angeles city mandate requires officers and other city employees be vaccinated against COVID-19 or be regularly tested if they are awaiting or have received a medical or religious exemption. More than 80% of personnel in the LAPD and the Los Angeles Fire Department have been vaccinated, but others are waiting for exemptions.
Last week, Democrat Mayor Eric Garcetti said vaccination and testing requirements were aimed at protecting front-line workers, those they come into contact with, and the broader operations of city agencies.
Medical experts say vaccines and especially booster shots may protect against serious illness and hospitalization from the omicron variant, which is now the dominant strain of COVID-19, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Garcetti said the city’s personnel department was still assessing the thousands of vaccine exemption requests on file from police and firefighters.
None of the suing officers asserted that their religious exemption requests had been denied. Klausner’s ruling left open the possibility the officers could assert discrimination on such grounds under amended complaints, the Los Angeles Times noted.
Officers have until Friday to make any such amendments in the existing case.
Alex Comisar, a spokesman for Garcetti, said the vaccine mandate "has always been about protecting the health and safety of our workers and the public, and the mayor is pleased that the court has recognized that in its ruling," the Times reported.
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