Union asks DeSantis to move law enforcement officers up on COVID-19 vaccine priority list

ORLANDO, Fla. — Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, 15 law enforcement officers across Florida have died from COVID-19 in what are considered line-of-duty deaths.

Law enforcement officers said it’s just another hazard of the job and that they should be getting the vaccine. But Gov. Ron DeSantis has made it clear seniors would come before anyone else.

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The union, representing about 26,000 officers across the state, said if law enforcement can’t move up in line to receive the vaccine, they should get first dibs on the leftover vaccines that often remain at vaccination sites at the end of the day.

Attorney General Ashley Moody said that law enforcement deaths doubled from 2019 to 2020, including in Florida, and that COVID-19 is part of the reason why.

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The Fraternal Order of Police President Robert Jenkins wrote a letter to DeSantis asking for him to change his mind and move law enforcement up on the list.

Jenkins wrote in his letter that he understands the supply and demand issues that come with distributing the vaccine, but emphasizes that police are the first point of contact for the community and often assist firefighters on 911 calls.

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He added that, “We are consistently exposed to people who are sick or exhibiting signs of COVID-19. Law enforcement does not have the ability to socially distance or put plexiglass barriers between us and the community we serve.”

Jenkins said if they can’t move up, they would like to at least be considered for any leftover vaccines at distribution sites.

The union said it has not heard back from DeSantis about its request.

Shannon Butler, WFTV.com

Shannon joined the Eyewitness News team in 2013.

Sarah Wilson, WFTV.com

Sarah Wilson joined WFTV Channel 9 in 2018 as a digital producer after working as an award-winning newspaper reporter for nearly a decade in various communities across Central Florida.