The List: Reasons Columbus police aren’t getting vaccinated today

A recent article in the Washington Post reported that only 28 percent of Columbus police officers had received at least one shot. We thought we’d take some guesses as to why.

Andy Downing
Columbus Alive
Police guard Columbus Police Headquarters as several hundred people protested the death of Minneapolis resident George Floyd in downtown Columbus on Friday, May 29, 2020.

In a recent Washington Post article documenting the national phenomenon of police spurning the COVID-19 vaccine, the paper revealed that just 28 percent of the Columbus Division of Police had reported receiving at least one shot, among the lowest uptakes for any of the included major cities. (Only Phoenix, at 23 percent, clocked a lower vaccination rate.)

The paper noted the potential dangers of this vaccine hesitancy, since police are often engaged in high-contact encounters, making officers potential vectors of spread to vulnerable populations during traffic stops, calls to homes and other similar interactions with the public.

“Police touch people,” Sharona Hoffman, a professor of law and bioethics at Case Western Reserve University, told the Post. “Imagine having a child in the car who’s not vaccinated. People would want to know if a police officer coming to their window is protected.”

In the article, police ambivalence to vaccination is attributed to many of the same concerns that have caused this hesitancy within the public, from the apparent speed at which the vaccine appears to have been created (in truth, it’s been decades in the making) to a belief that a previous COVID-19 infection has given the person immunity (doctors still recommend getting the vaccine for a variety of reasons).

In Columbus, though, a particularly novel explanation is presented by Jason Pappas, a CPD officer and vice president of the FOP of Ohio (and former president of Columbus' local FOP chapter, Capital City Lodge No. 9), who said that the department’s numbers might skew low because law enforcement in Ohio was not given early access to the vaccine, as it was in other states, a delay that stirred anger in the force, and that he said might now be causing officers to withhold their vaccination status.

In the most generous interpretation, the statement suggests that, even if Columbus police officers have received the vaccine, they might choose not to disclose it, owing to a lingering resentment from not being granted earlier access by Gov. Mike DeWine. This idea tracks, too. In late February, just days after posting that police still weren’t on the vaccine list, Jeff Simpson, the executive vice president of FOP Capital City Lodge No. 9, liked a tweet in which the governor was asked if police would be vaccinated after death row inmates. (A question that, beyond the obvious dehumanization of prisoners, who live in conditions that put them at higher risk of contracting the coronavirus, exists solely as a feint intended to stir up anger; Ohio only has around 100 inmates on death row, a number that had virtually no impact on vaccine availability.)

Here, outside of spite, are some other reasons CPD officers might be forgoing the vaccine.

We were running “amok”

A federal judge in Columbus recently granted an injunction against the Columbus police barring the use of tear gas, pepper spray, wooden projectiles and other so-called “non-lethal force” measures against peaceful protesters, owing to the department's response to the Black lives matter protests that sprung up in the city last May following the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. "Some of the members of the Columbus Police Department had no regard for the rights secured by this bedrock principle of American democracy,” Chief U.S. District Judge Algenon L. Marbley wrote in making the decision. “This case is the sad tale of police officers, clothed with the awesome power of the state, run amok." A state of being that can make it tough to remember to set up that first appointment.

We were fighting murderous Antifa thugs

Sure, reporting has shown that the bus CPD targeted last summer, named Buttercup, was actually home to hippie jugglers, but you’ll never see police walk back or delete the tweet that set off a national firestorm. Same with the man CPD described as “a person of interest” on social media during the May protests, and who ended up a right wing target after the information police helped spread led to him turning up on former president Donald Trump’s Twitter feed. Better to carry on like nothing happened than to admit any mistakes.

Too busy being horny for Trump on Twitter and/or lobbying Candace Owens to follow in his footsteps

I miss him.

Please consider running for president.” “Run.” “Please run.

We needed the time to draft a letter blaming political rhetoric for the city’s current spike in violent crime

Recently, Mayor Andrew Ginther asked the Department of Justice for a formal review of any racial bias within CPD. In response, the FOP Cap City Lodge No. 9 issued a letter in which it opened by writing that its members were always willing to work with any entity to improve the policing in the communities it serves, going on to trace the current spike in violent crime to its most obvious source: the supposed vilification of police by local politicians. (It’s important to note here that “vilifying” is best described here as “mildly criticizing,” and if anyone can find an instance where the mayor and/or council members said something that reads as more than a measured rebuke, please send it our way.)

We were coming up with sick new helicopter flight patterns

If you thought skywriting “CPD” was badass, wait until CPD flies a script Ohio that puts even the routine perfected by the Best Damn Band in the Land to shame. (Don’t worry, Bexley and Upper Arlington residents, the police will absolutely bypass your airspace.)