Governor Charlie Baker has made clear his COVID-19 vaccine mandate is absolute with his latest ultimatum to at least a dozen Massachusetts State Police troopers: get the shot or find a new job.
At least a dozen troopers, including six sergeants, were notified Friday night they face termination if they don’t comply with the Governor’s overreaching mandate. Some of the notices conceded the troopers submitted sufficient medical documentation to demonstrate reasonable accommodations are necessary, but the state still denied their exemption requests.
The troopers had submitted their requests ahead of the Governor’s deadline this past Sunday, but waited on edge for days before learning their fate. The timing makes sense though as the Baker administration is known for a Friday night news dump. They often share information that doesn’t paint them in a positive light right before the weekend in the hopes of getting less media attention.
The state has failed to work with the troopers to bridge the gap and find alternatives to the mandate, like wearing a mask and getting COVID-19 tested weekly, indicating the Governor doesn’t care about the health and religion of these troopers.
“Governor Baker’s administration admits that some members have a legitimate, medically necessary reason for not receiving a vaccination,” said Michael Cherven, president of the State Police Association of Massachusetts. “Instead of offering the same reasonable accommodations that municipalities and states across the country are offering, Governor Baker is showing these decorated veterans the door. This is outrageous.”
Sergeant Stephen Candito, a 17-year veteran of the department who currently serves on the Gang Unit, had his medical waiver denied even though he has shown sufficient evidence that getting the vaccine would be detrimental to his health.
While serving in the U.S. Air Force in 1998, Sgt. Candito received a vaccination that caused a severe reaction resulting in Bell’s Palsy. Since then, he has a well-documented history of vaccine waivers from some of the most prestigious hospitals in the world, including Walter Reed Medical Center.
During his initial waiver interview, Sgt. Candito was informed by his supervisors that he was a textbook case of a necessary medical waiver. They granted him preliminary approval that would require him to wear a mask and get tested for COVID-19 weekly. He then received an email on Friday at 8:30 p.m. stating that if he didn’t get vaccinated, he faced discipline up to and including termination.
Sgt. Candito is a well-respected member of the department who has received several commendations throughout his career. “These willful attacks on public safety personnel and the continued rushed planning around the COVID-19 pandemic is putting lives at risk,” Cherven said.
To be clear, SPAM supports vaccinations. More than 85% of troopers have been vaccinated against COVID-19, including Cherven and the entire executive board. At issue is the Governor’s failure to properly allow for any reasonable accommodations other than termination, such as wearing a mask and getting weekly COVID-19 testing. As Live Boston reported earlier this week, the Massachusetts State Police is severely understaffed and can’t afford to lose anymore troopers.
“Whoever is making these decisions would rather usher out centuries worth of experience in order to implement [the Governor’s] mandate while knowing that his decisions are exacerbating an already critical shortage of state troopers,” Cherven said.
Live Boston 617 has reached out to the Governor’s office to try and understand the reasoning behind denying Sgt. Candito’s waiver.