Push for law enforcement to get COVID-19 vaccinations before Chauvin trial

Law enforcement officers, who are expected to handle the security for the upcoming trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, are wondering if they will be receiving the COVID-19 vaccine before the court proceedings begin.

"I’m extremely worried what we saw over the summer could potentially come back," said Brian Peters, the executive director of the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association.

The MPPOA is the state’s largest group representing law enforcement. Peters says he’s losing sleep over what might unfold around Chauvin’s March murder trial in the death of George Floyd. One of his top concerns is making sure law enforcement officers tasked with public safety duties are healthy and protected, which includes getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

"We need all the personnel that we can to be able to respond," said Peters. "And it’s getting to be crunch time. For the vaccine to be effective, we need two rounds of it. So time is of the essence."

A Minneapolis police spokesman told FOX 9 MPD’s front-line officers are slated to get first doses of the vaccine in the "next week or two." Minnesota state troopers have started rolling up their sleeves, but the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office is lagging behind.

Some, including Peters, believe the delay is because of a small loophole contained within vaccination priorities from the Minnesota Department of Health that puts emergency medical service personnel and first responders who "provide direct patient care" at the front of the line. Many in the sheriff’s office don’t carry Minnesota’s EMS certification.

"Let me put it in perspective, this is a piece of paper. Hennepin County, specifically deputies, are trained medically. They respond to medicals. So they should receive the vaccination," said Peters.

As Gov. Tim Walz budgets more than $4 million for trial security and related costs, the state’s police chiefs and sheriffs are putting the vaccine issue front and center by sending a letter to his administration.

"We believe it’s imperative that the MDH allows police officers and sheriff's deputies immediate access to the available vaccinations. If not, the health of our officers and deputies who are sworn to protect - and the safety of those they have taken an oath to serve - is at risk," read the letter in part.

In a statement, Hennepin County officials reiterated the lack of vaccine supply, but confirmed deputies will begin to be vaccinated this week.

FOX 9 has also learned the Chauvin trial will delay and force the rescheduling of other springtime trials and court proceedings at the Hennepin County Government Center because of safety and security concerns.