State Police officers waiting to learn their fate as they appeal Gov. Charlie Baker's vaccine mandate are doubling down on the job helping to fill overtime shifts and cracking cases — as they've always done.
"This is an opportunity to show we can help and appreciate how we've been accommodated so far," one trooper seeking an exemption told the Herald Friday. "We pray they approve the exemptions so we can continue to work."
Close to 300 State Police officers — from troopers to commanders — are seeking waivers. Hearings are rolling out as the agency rules on who does and does not qualify for an exemption on religious or medical grounds. The Herald also reported this week a few troopers have quit over the mandate and a new graduating class of 168 recruits are now on the job.
Some of the officers holding out on the jab are pointing out others also waiting on exemptions — masked and willing to be tested — have "worked protests" at the State House, will fill OT shifts at Sunday's Patriots game at Gillette and are cracking cases.
That includes three recent bank robberies being solved via fingerprint matches, freeing a trapped car crash victim by a heroic — unvaccinated — trooper and "ghost guns" taken off the streets, and helping in the search for a missing 5-year-old New Hampshire boy.
Bill Gens, a Boston lawyer representing a group of State Police members trying to win exemptions, is taking a harder stance.
"The troopers did first-responder work the past 20 months and many of them had COVID and acquired immunity and antibodies," Gens said. "Why is the governor insisting on vaccinating those troopers?"
Gens argued there are too many unanswered questions — ones he'd like Baker to address. That includes saying who will pay if a trooper has an adverse reaction to a vaccination. He even sent a letter to the State Police asking that and more.
The chief legal counsel for the State Police, Jennifer Staples, sent a letter back to Gens that states: "As you are aware, Governor Baker issued Executive Order No. 595, COVID Vaccination Requirement for Executive Department Employees. As such, any questions regarding this Executive Order are better posed to the Governor's Office. Thank you for your kind attention to this matter."
Baker has said all along he is "following the science" as he rolls out the vaccine mandate.
The union representing correctional officers has also vowed to "go down swinging" and has appealed a federal judge's "disappointing" denial of an injunction. More than 550 members are still awaiting a decision on exemptions, the union said.
Exemptions to the vaccine mandate that went into effect a week ago for more than 42,000 executive-branch workers are still being processed.
UPDATE: Late Friday night the Herald was told some requests for exemptions were being denied. We will stay on this story.
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