Judge denies LAPD union's request to temporarily halt vaccine mandate

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LOS ANGELES, CA - Wednesday, Dec. 4 Craig Lally, center, President of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, speaks during a press conference at the Los Angeles Police Protective League in downtown Los Angleles on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019. The Los Angeles Police Protective League Board of Directors will expressed their outrage over the allegation that an on-duty Los Angeles Police Department officer fondled a deceased female. If these allegations are found to be true and if there is any criminality involved, the Los Angeles Police Protective League will not defend the accused individual in any criminal proceedings. (Photographs by Gabriella Angotti-Jones/Los Angeles Times)
Craig Lally, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, speaks in 2019. The union has sued over the COVID-19 vaccination mandate for city employees. (Gabriella Angotti-Jones / Los Angeles Times)

A judge on Monday denied the Los Angeles police union's request to temporarily halt the implementation of the city's COVID-19 vaccination mandate.

The Los Angeles Police Protective League argued for a preliminary injunction, which would have halted the mandate for police officers while a lawsuit the union filed against the city moved forward.

In a statement, City Atty. Mike Feuer praised the judge's decision, which marked the second time this month the court sided with the city on the vaccination mandate issue. On Dec. 3, a different judge rejected a similar request for a preliminary injunction filed by the union representing Los Angeles firefighters, Feuer said.

The L.A. mandate requires city employees, including firefighters and police officers, to be vaccinated against COVID-19 unless they are approved for a medical or religious exemption.

“For the second time this month, a court has rejected a shortsighted attempt to halt implementation of the city’s vaccine mandate for first responders," Feuer said. "Last week marked the one-year anniversary of the first COVID vaccination. Today as COVID cases are on the rise in Los Angeles, it’s more important than ever that all first responders get vaccinated."

Last week, L.A. County Superior Court Judge Mitchell L. Beckloff issued a tentative ruling denying the police union's request for the injunction and heard arguments, but he said he wanted to study the issues further.

In his tentative ruling Wednesday, the judge said the balancing of harms weighed in favor of protecting the health of the public and the city's workforce over considerations for any pending labor issues.

Beckloff issued his 17-page final decision Monday.

In November, the judge struck down a related request by the Police Protective League for a temporary restraining order, which would have blocked the vaccination mandate from taking effect for officers.

The legal battle began in October, when the police union filed a lawsuit against the city over how it rolled out its COVID-19 vaccination mandate. The police union alleged that the city did not negotiate in good faith and was trying to inappropriately pass on costs to officers.

Under city policy, unvaccinated employees must submit to twice-weekly coronavirus testing. Each test is paid for by a $65 deduction from their paychecks.

Employees who were granted medical or religious exemptions to being vaccinated would be reimbursed.

The police union also alleged the testing plan may involve conflicts of interest and raised concerns that the testing contractor was co-owned by Fire and Police Pension Commissioner Pedram Salimpour.

"We are disappointed by the denial of our preliminary injunction that would have prevented Los Angeles Fire and Police Pension Commissioner Pedram Salimpour from profiting off of city workers through his company, Bluestone," the Police Protective League said in a statement provided to The Times on Monday. "We believe the $3 million no-bid contract awarded to Bluestone, a company that does not own a COVID testing facility and does not manufacture the COVID tests, was done so in a non-transparent manner that violated the law and we are evaluating all of our options."

City officials withheld information about the testing contractor while they bargained with the union over the terms of the mandate, according to the Police Protective League.

The city denied any impropriety.

Shortly before the lawsuit was filed, Salimpour said he had complied with "applicable ethics laws" and called the union's allegations false.

The union also alleged that passing the cost of testing to employees while testing remained a condition of their employment was a violation of labor law.

It asked the court to block the city from implementing the mandate so that the union and city could return to the bargaining table. It also asked the court to prevent the city from charging fees for officer testing.

Monday's ruling comes after a judge struck down a similar request for a preliminary injunction filed by the United Firefighters of Los Angeles City Local 112. The firefighters union filed suit in November and asked that the vaccination mandate, which is scheduled to take effect Saturday, be delayed to allow for proper bargaining procedures.

City News Service contributed to this report.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.