That the COVID-19 pandemic continues to pose a very real threat to Americans nationwide remains true more than 18 months since the nation first shut down in March of 2020. In the months since first responders have stood at the forefront of the pandemic. Law enforcement officers, in particular, have given much to protect fellow citizens over the course of the pandemic.
FBI data showed a nearly 30% rise in murders in 2020 from the previous year, constituting the “largest single-year increase ever recorded in the country.” NPR assigned blame for the increase in violent crimes to both the coronavirus pandemic and fallout from the death of George Floyd in May 2020. The politicization of the Black Lives Matter movement and subsequent traction gained by “Defund the Police” advocates across America contributed to an astounding “45% increase in the retirement rate” in police departments. Comments from respondents to a survey on the nationwide staffing crisis among police cited “pandemic fatigue” along with the current negative narrative and political climate surrounding law enforcement as reasons for police officers prematurely leaving their profession.
Aside from just the mental toll exacted on police officers from increased crime and negative media coverage over the course of the pandemic, police officers have also become a greater target for violence themselves. By August of this year, 47 police officers had been killed, already exceeding the total number of officers killed in all of 2020. Significant reductions to the budgets of local police departments, arising from the political appetite for defunding the police have left many departments understaffed and unable to retain or recruit officers. These shortages leave officers more vulnerable than ever before and increasingly unable to adequately police the communities they have sworn to serve and protect.
It’s precisely in this context that former Obama official Juliette Kayyem dared to suggest that police officers be forced to choose between their pensions or vaccination. In a tweet earlier this month, Kayyem derided polls that indicate police officers are willing to walk away from their jobs should they be forced to subject themselves to mandated vaccination. She called on officers to “adult up” or lose their pensions. Let’s remind Kayyem and others similarly persuaded that law enforcement officers do serve the public, but they are entitled to take a stand for what they believe in. A highly politicized pandemic has rendered a nation full of weary public servants who remain subject to derision from those they protect and facing a lack of support from elected officials on all levels of government.