A California police officer who served the city of San Jose for nearly three decades announced his retirement in the aftermath of the city’s vaccine mandate for all city employees, all the while the police force continues struggling with chronic understaffing. 

“First of all, it’s my religious belief. I also believe I’ve been given a choice about what to do with my body,” Sgt. David Gutierrez said.

Before retiring in 2019, Gutierrez worked for the San Jose Police Department for 23 years as a homicide detective, internal affairs investigator, and patrol supervisor. He rejoined the service as a reserve officer after that.

The San Jose Police Department veteran of 29 years worked his last shift at the department on Saturday, Sept. 18, and said he sent a letter to the city manager on Monday, Sept. 20, denouncing the city’s vaccine mandate, which requires city employees to show proof of vaccination or get a medical exemption before the city’s Sept. 30 deadline. Those who do not follow the rules may face disciplinary action, including firing.

“Disciplinary action is when you have done something wrong,” Gutierrez said, according to NBC Bay Area. “I have done nothing wrong—by making a choice not to be vaccinated why would you be disciplined?”

Gutierrez also stated that he is not anti-vaccine and that instead of enforcing the vaccine or obtaining a medical exemption, the city should test him on a weekly basis.

“I’m not anti-vaccine. I don’t tell people, ‘You shouldn’t get it.’ But when it comes to my body, it’s my choice about what I want to put in my body,” Gutierrez said.

Furthermore, he stated that more police might walk off the job, citing the department’s current understaffing difficulties.

“We are already understaffed and can’t afford to lose more,” Gutierrez said.

The force has depended mainly on overtime as it suffers from understaffing, a recent audit of the police department’s last ten years shows.

According to the police officer’s association, there are “roughly 150” officers in the city who are either unvaccinated or have not declared their vaccination status.

“Losing even a fraction of them would be a blow to a department that’s chronically understaffed,” KPIX reported.

“If they let go police officers who’ve been here five years, 10 years, 15 years, you can hire somebody else, but you’re not going to hire that experience though,” Gutierrez added.

So far, almost 200 policemen in the department have requested exemptions, most of which are for religious reasons. However, the Democratic mayor, Sam Liccardo, claims that the vaccine mandate is working well and does not expect a mass exodus from the police force.

“This is certainly for the protection of the individual members of our city team. But it’s also, critically, for the safety of our entire community because we know, obviously, first responders are out there interacting [with the public] every day,” Liccardo said, according to KPIX.

Gutierrez is just one of many first responders who are dealing with the same problem. Last week, Maria Bernard, an Orange County firefighter, spoke at a news conference held by Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and expressed her displeasure with the vaccine restrictions imposed on first responders. “No one should be forced to have to choose between their beliefs and their bodily autonomy or their job and risk losing everything they ever worked for in life to be left with no way to survive,” she said, Breitbart reported.

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