In an exclusive interview with NBC Nightly News, former Miami police chief Art Acevedo said he did not regret pushing for a vaccine mandate within the department.
Acevedo’s stance on vaccines was one of several factors which led to low morale in the department, which eventually led to a vote of “no confidence” from the union and his termination from the city.
“When you’re seeing more officers die from COVID than gunshots, and you care about your officers, and you care about the public that may be being infected by our officer responding, that’s asymptomatic, and potentially dying,” Acevedo told NBC. “You know, I don’t regret that because I believe as public servants we have a duty to the public.”
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Miami city manager Art Noriega said Acevedo overstepped his authority, hinting in a local interview officer’s jobs may be on the line without getting vaccinated.
“I think we’re close to making everybody get shots, vaccinated. If you don’t like it, go find another job. You’re putting the public at risk,” Acevedo told political consultant Sasha Tirador on her Youtube channel.
In the interview, Acevedo said he’d support going to court against Gov. Ron DeSantis’s administration over it, which also irked city manager Noriega because the city manager, city commission, and city attorney are the ones who decide to take a case to court.
Acevedo conceded those remarks added to low morale for officers already dealing with the pandemic, political instability, and anti-police sentiments after deadly shootings of Black Americans.
According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, in 2021, 366 officers or deputies have lost their lives. The vast majority of them - 234 - died from COVID. Florida specifically has had 33 officers die from COVID, the highest total number after Texas. Public health officials say one of the three widely available vaccines are safe and effective against the virus.
That “threat” of losing employment for being unvaccinated became one factor out of eight for Noriega’s decision to suspend him with the intent to remove him. Others included controversial “Cuban mafia” comments and an 8-page memo accusing city commissioners of unlawfully interfering with internal affairs investigations, intimidation, and violations of the city charter - which the commissioners deny.
In an earlier public meeting set to determine Acevedo’s fate in Miami, Noriega said he was irked by the vaccine statements.
“Because he didn’t have the authority to issue any vaccine policy even to give the implication that one was forthcoming. That fell on me,” Noriega said when asked by the city’s attorney.
The city manager went on to say at the time they were monitoring COVID cases and hospitalizations weekly and discussed a vaccine mandate but never implemented one. They would have had to negotiate with the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), the union representing officers.
The FOP opposes vaccine mandates and the idea factored into the union’s vote of “no confidence” in Acevedo earlier this spring.
The city policy is to require employees to wear masks, which they can opt out of if they show proof of vaccination. Noriega said he thought Acevedo was going outside his job under the city manager.
“Although he had a strong and firm belief in a vaccine mandate, he was never authorized to have that discussion and quite frankly stepped out of bounds in doing so,” said Noriega.