Greenbelt, MD – Three veteran Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning (MNCPP) police officers were denied exemptions and fired for refusing to comply with their parent agency’s vaccine mandate even though two of them had adverse reactions to the first injection and their doctors told them not to continue.
Jonathan Ness, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 30 which represents the fired MNCPP officers, told The Police Tribune that the police union hoped the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (MNCPPC) would make reasonable accommodations for any of its officers who applied for a medical or religious exemption from the process.
Ness also pointed out that the agency would have to follow the provisions of Maryland’s Law Enforcement Officer’s Bill of Rights (LEOBR) in implementing the new mandate policy because failure to get inoculated was being called a “disciplinary matter.”
The union boss said that about a dozen police officers filed for exemptions for a variety of reasons and they all received a blanket denial of their requests in early November of 2021.
But the commission hadn’t followed the process properly – they hadn’t interviewed the people requesting exemptions and they didn’t make educated decisions about individual officers’ requests for exemption.
The FOP demanded that MNCPP give those officers the iterative process that they were due under the law and so the commissioners reviewed the applications for exemption again, and then they issued another blanket denial to all the applicants.
Ness told The Police Tribune that out of the 12 officers who were denied the exemption, a few got vaccinated and some took early retirement.
But there were three veteran officers who remained in limbo, according to the union president.
One of the officers sought a religious exemption and was denied.
The other two officers had tried to follow the agency’s mandate and had gotten the first vaccination shot without complaint, according to Ness.
But they both had adverse reactions to the vaccine – so much so that each of their doctors told them not to get the second shot or any of the boosters.
Ness did not release any details about what symptoms or complications the officers’ suffered, citing privacy restrictions, but he told The Police Tribune that what the officers had gone through “was not flu-like symptoms.”
He said that the reaction each of them had was severe enough that they have medical documentation that says they should not continue the vaccination process for the good of their health.
All three officers were placed on leave without pay by MNCPPC in late January.
FOP attorneys requested a hearing board under the state’s LEOBR, but the commission responded that they were not following the hearing board process and would move to terminate the three officers.
Ness told The Police Tribune that the officers were notified one at a time that they had been fired, and the last of the three officers received their termination notice on Valentine’s Day.
Of the three officers who were fired, the FOP said one is a single mother and one is the father of multiple small children, including a newborn.
The union membership has set up a GoFundMe to help the officers with expenses while FOP attorneys fight to get them reinstated.
Ness said FOP attorneys will now file show cause orders in Prince George’s and Montgomery County courts to try to get the commission’s decision reversed because the manner in which the terminations were handled was a “clear denial of the officers’ due process rights.”
He said that officers from other departments in the counties where the MNCPP officers patrol allow unvaccinated officers to work masked and tested, so it’s completely unreasonable to fire his members just because they work under the authority of another agency within the same state.
“My officers were out there working the entire time,” Ness told The Police Tribune. “When the rest of the commission got to telework and most of them still are. My officers were still out there protecting the communities in both Prince George’s and Montgomery County.”
He said the commission’s decision didn’t make sense.
“Both counties the officers work in allow their own officers to work masked and tested so why would you hold this department’s members to a different standard in those counties?” Ness asked. “All three of these officers are hard-working seasoned officer.”
The Police Tribune reached out to the commission’s public affairs office for comment but had not received a response at publication time.