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LAPD, LAFD members sue over Los Angeles’ vaccine mandate

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Mike Feuer, Los Angeles City Attorney, joins Yahoo Finance to discuss Los Angeles police officers and firefighters filing lawsuits against the city of L.A. over vaccine mandate.

Video Transcript

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: We are going to change it up here now and talk about hundreds of Los Angeles firefighters and police officers who are challenging an ordinance requiring all city employees be fully vaccinated by October or submit to COVID testing.

Joining us now with more is Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer and Yahoo Finance's Dani Romero. Mike, Thanks so much for being with us. So just tell us briefly the city's response to this federal lawsuit.

MIKE FEUER: Well, there are actually two different lawsuits. One was filed by several members of the police department. Another was filed by members of our fire department. There's been no formal response in court yet, but I'll tell you what I think. Courts for the last century, including the US Supreme Court, have held that vaccine mandates are lawful because they protect the greater good.

And I will say the greater good compels this approach right now. Here in Los Angeles, we have a continuing issue with COVID. It's not as great as it is in other jurisdictions, and it's more significant than it is elsewhere.

The Delta variant has challenged us. We cannot afford to get back to an economic shutdown. We can't afford to have our schools shut down again.

And from my standpoint and given these law enforcement and the first responders' approaches, I will say this. They are very brave. They've chosen to join our police and fire departments because they have the courage to try to protect members of the public. That same approach should pertain to vaccinations. It should never be the case that a member of the public is exposed to COVID because they come in contact with a first responder who hasn't gotten vaccinated.

So we're going to very vigorously contest these lawsuits. I'm confident about the outcome. And I think it's just essential that we continue to effectively persuade all members of the public, including our first responders, how important it is to get vaccinated to protect all of us.

DANI ROMERO: And, Mr. Feuer, do we know what the consequences will be if these first responders don't want-- refuse to get the shot?

MIKE FEUER: Well, there are a couple different things going on here. One is the city does have an exemption for people who have a legitimate medical reason not to get vaccinated, and there's also an available exemption for people who have sincerely held religious beliefs that are leading them not to want to get vaccinated. There are members of both the fire and police departments who are seeking those exemptions. The city will have a process for that.

That's different from someone who altogether refuses to provide their vaccination status to the city next month. So we're going to see what happens.

I will say that I think it's just imperative that we rise to this occasion right now. We cannot allow the Delta variant or any new variant to take over our society yet again here in Los Angeles.

DANI ROMERO: And, Mr. Feuer, depending on how the lawsuit pans out, if these officers or firefighters decide to leave their departments, you know, folks at home want to know how this will affect them. So how much disruption would it cause in the city?

MIKE FEUER: Oh, I'm not going to speculate about that. I think it's way premature to assume that anybody would leave the department, either the police or fire department, over these mandates.

Again, these are our members of our public-safety team who have chosen to race in when people are in danger. That is their mindset. And at the end of the day, I'm optimistic that we're going to see the vast majority of our firefighters and police officers agree to comply with a law that is extremely likely to be upheld by courts in these lawsuits.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Are these firefighters and police officers also against submitting to COVID testing? Because I know the city has said either you're going to have to be vaccinated by this date or submit to testing. Are they against doing both?

MIKE FEUER: You're going to have to ask them that. I don't know. I will say this. I hope that they're listening to the voices of, for example, widows of police department-- members or our police department who have spoken recently about the fact that their spouses, LAPD officers, didn't get vaccinated and then died. There are tremendous consequences here.

Both of these lawsuits read much more like, you know, political statements than they do, you know, sound legal argument. And if we're going to be talking about political statements, I think that the voices of those widows speak extremely loudly, and I hope they resonate with members of the police and fire departments here in Los Angeles.

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