TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — The Tallahassee Police department is returning to normal operations, bringing hundreds of employees back to headquarters although the majority of the staff and officers are not getting vaccinated.
"The biggest challenge is continuing to do our job and to try to do it safely," said police chief Lawrence Revell.
In Tallahassee, only about 100 of the city's 380 sworn officers are fully vaccinated.
Revell says vaccinated or not, the department is moving forward, and employees will have no choice but to return to work when normal operations resume.
Which is one of the reasons he's encouraging his team to get vaccinated now.
"There are times where they can put their mask on but there are other times where they're jumping out of their vehicles and responding to calls quickly and dealing with people in all different situations where people are and are not wearing masks and fighting," Revell said. "Those types of things happen so how do we keep our officers safe and still do their jobs"
Chief Revell took over the department last January and the pandemic has been one of his biggest challenges yet.
With the state of Florida opening vaccine eligibility to all adults in April, the chief says normal operations for the department will resume in mid-May. That means all staff will be back in-house at the TPD headquarters. Which could present a new challenge - preventing an increase in cases.
"I still have a bunch of officers that are choosing not to do it and a lot of employees in general choosing not to do it," said Revell, "and I'm never going to make it mandatory that they have to."
The chief is fully vaccinated and says, just like the flu shot, getting the COVID-19 vaccine is a personal choice.
"If you're choosing not to get the shot, that is your choice, but you can't claim, 'I'm worried about COVID,' you can't say you're not coming to work or you don't feel safe coming to work because of COVID, but you won't go get the shot," Revell said. "You can't have it both ways."
The timing of the department's return to work gives all of the staff an opportunity to get their second shot, depending on which vaccine they get.
Statewide, law enforcement officers over the age of 65 have had access to the vaccine since December; however, it was not until March when all officers became eligible.