Judge Denies Mass. State Police Bid for Injunction on Vaccine Mandate

The State Police Association of Massachusetts claims that "dozens" of troopers filed paperwork for resignation after the Suffolk Superior Court denied its request to block implementation of Gov. Charlie Baker's vaccine mandate

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A Superior Court judge late Thursday denied the request of the union representing 1,800 members of the State Police to block the implementation of Gov. Charlie Baker's vaccine mandate until the details can be collectively bargained, a move the union says has prompted dozens of resignations.

The decision leaves unvaccinated troopers with just days to get their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine or face potential disciplinary action, including the loss of their job, when they are not fully vaccinated by mid-October.

Judge Jackie Cowin ruled that the State Police Association of Massachusetts had failed to show that the implementation of the mandate on Oct. 17 would either cause irreparable harm to its members or that a delay would serve the public interest.

"To date, dozens of troopers have already submitted their resignation paperwork, some of whom plan to return to other departments offering reasonable alternatives such as mask wearing and regular testing," SPAM President Michael Cherven said in a statement Friday night. "The State Police are already critically short staffed and acknowledged this by the unprecedented moves which took troopers from specialty units that investigate homicides, terrorism, computer crimes, arsons, gangs, narcotics, and human trafficking, and returned them to uniformed patrol."

But while the state police say it's possible some troopers had started the resignation process or announced plans to do so, no troopers resigned Friday because of the mandate.

"We will decline comment. No retirements occurred today because of the vaccine issue," state police told NBC10 Boston. "There was only one retirement today, a Major (had nothing to do with the vaccine). They may have submitted paperwork or indicated to the union that they plan to do so, but no retirement orders were cut today."

The Massachusetts State Police union is suing the state to stop Gov. Charlie Baker's vaccine mandate, saying representatives didn't get the chance to negotiate alternatives.

"As such, suspending the deadline for union members to obtain full vaccination would be against the public interest which the defendants are charged with protecting, and cause more harm to the Commonwealth than is caused to the union by denial of such relief," Cowin wrote in her decision.

The union filed its lawsuit seeking an injunction last Friday, and had a hearing in front of Cowin on Wednesday. Gov. Baker signed the executive order establishing the vaccine mandate for all state employees under his authority on Aug. 19, and began the process of bargaining with various public employee unions shortly after.

The state police union had its first meeting with the administration's chief negotiator John Langan on Aug. 30. The union said it had been seeking "reasonable accommodations" for its members as an alternative to the vaccine, including weekly testing and the wearing of a mask while on the job. Baker has described a testing option as counterproductive to the goals of the vaccine policy.

The union also asked for presumptive protection so that it would be considered a line-of-duty injury if members contracted COVID-19 or became ill from the vaccine and were forced to retire or die from COVID.

The union and the administration are scheduled to sit down next at the bargaining table on Sept. 30. The date to begin a vaccine regimen with Moderna and be fully vaccinated by Oct. 17 passed on Sept. 19, but state police members can still get their first shot of Pfizer vaccine by Sept. 26 and meet the deadline.

It's unclear how many, if any, union agreements the administration has reached with other employee bargaining units over the vaccine policy.

State House News Service/NBC
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