Sheriff Calvin Hayden has a message for law enforcement officers and other first responders throughout the country who are quitting over vaccine requirements: Come to Johnson County.
Hayden last week put out a press release urging officers to consider working in Johnson County, what he called a “safe haven for law enforcement officers who feel unsupported and undervalued by their communities and their government leaders.”
“True to our Midwestern values, Johnson County is a place where freedom is valued and law enforcement is respected,” the release said.
In some big cities across the country, including Chicago, New York and Los Angeles, police and fire employees and their unions have objected strongly to state and local requirements that they get vaccinated against COVID-19.
In some instances, the mandates have prompted protests and promises of mass exoduses of employees.
Although disagreements over vaccination rules have often turned political, Hayden told the Post his recent call for law enforcement officers to consider coming to Johnson County was not intended that way.
“This has got nothing to do with politics. This is about giving people an opportunity to come and live in a great community where we value police,” Hayden said.
In the Kansas City area, nearly all law enforcement agencies, with the exception of Kansas City, Kan., have not required their workers get vaccinated. Hayden told the Post he could think of no Johnson County police departments that require them.
Johnson County sheriff’s deputies are not required to be vaccinated, and Hayden said he does not plan to change that. Some 170 deputies and Hayden himself have immunity, he said, after getting infected by and surviving COVID-19 and many others are vaccinated.
This summer, Hayden opted the sheriff’s department out of the county manager’s directive requiring most other county employees either to get vaccinated or submit to weekly COVID testing.
Vacancies in JoCo
If law enforcement officers are quitting elsewhere, Hayden said his advertisement may give the county a chance to get some experienced officers to fill 20 existing vacancies.
While that’s not a big vacancy number compared to some other years, Hayden said law enforcement comes with a lengthy hiring process and training program and open spots vary as people leave the office.
Retirements have created eight to ten vacancies in recent months, he added.
Other agencies may not advertise that they don’t require a vaccination, he said.
“I think they’re afraid to do that but I’m not. I’m just going to be honest about it,” he said.
Vaccine aversion isn’t the only reason people leave law enforcement jobs, he said.
“The last two years have been very difficult on police work,” he said, citing protests and some instances of civil unrest in cities like Portland, Ore. and Minneapolis last year following the police killing of George Floyd.
“Law enforcement has not been appreciated and forced to stand down because of politics and we’re just not going to do that here. We’ve got a safe community. We’ve got a community that values law enforcement,” Hayden said.
He lauded the county as a great place to work, and said perhaps his advertisement would draw enough attention to bring new applicants to the seventeen police departments in the county that also have vacancies to fill.
Read Hayden’s full press release: