Mayor concerned first responders could quit if vaccines are mandated

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Memphis Mayor worries first responders like police and firefighters could quit if vaccines are mandated.

This concern started after President Biden announced last month that he would like to see businesses with more than 100 employees require the vaccine.

“We can’t afford to lose 40 or 50 police officers or firefighters just from a manpower point of view. It would be devastating,” said Mayor Jim Strickland.

Mayor Strickland said getting vaccinated is very important, but he’s worried about how Memphis first responders will react to a vaccine mandate.

Right now, about 47 percent of police officers and a little more than 50 percent of the fire department are vaccinated.

“It’s a hard decision,” said Mayor Strickland. “I wish people would get vaccinated. It works. It’s safe, and we incentivize it, $250 per employee.”

Another factor is the city is already trying to hire hundreds of officers.

There are currently about 2,000 officers, but the goal is to hire 200 to 300 more over the next few years.

So if people leave, that could make it that much harder to fill staffing needs.

Fire Chief Gina Sweat said she agreed.

“Once you give people an ultimatum, you have to be prepared to deal with the consequences, and that’s definitely something that would concern me,” said Chief Sweat.

For now, both Mayor Strickland and Chief Sweat urge first responders to get vaccinated.

Both emphasize vaccine hesitancy isn’t just a city issue. It’s a problem across the nation.

“Masks aren’t perfect. Vaccines aren’t perfect, but they make it better,” said Mayor Strickland.

Both Mayor Strickland and Chief Sweat said they would follow President Biden’s mandate once it’s in place. The question is just when will this happen.

Mayor Strickland thinks there could be a delay because of future lawsuits or court cases regarding the mandate.

FOX13 reached out to MPD about a possible mandate. This story will be updated when we hear back.