A Los Angeles fire captain is under investigation after he posted an online rant against vaccine mandates for first responders – repeatedly likening mandates to “tyranny” and appearing to make an imitation Nazi salute.
Capt Cristian Granucci, railing against city and union officials, urged other first responders to “take the battle to them any way you can – and you assemble all the numbers that you can, as many people as you can.
“Take the fight to them. We outnumber them.”
Capt Granucci, who says in the video that he is a 31-year department veteran, did not explain why so many first responders were allegedly opposed to the vaccine itself. A mandate set to be enacted in October will require all Los Angeles city employees, including first responders, to either prove they’ve been vaccinated or get tested twice a weekly. Failure to comply would lead to termination.
According to LAFD data, 54.26 per cent of sworn members are fully vaccinated and 61.6 per cent have received at least one dose, NPR reported.
“This is not about politics ... this isn’t even about vaccinated versus unvaccinated,” said the captain, wearing an LAFD-branded hat and shirt. “This is tyranny. This is about freedom of choice.”
He continued: “The vaccinations will come, and then after that it will be a booster and another booster and another booster – and when will this end? When will this tyranny stop?”
“I’ll tell you where it’s gonna stop – it’s gonna stop right here, right now. And I’m putting my administration and my union on blast. You had the opportunity to get in front of this and you didn’t.”
An LAFD spokeswoman told NPR that the department has launched an internal personnel investigation into the captain, who could face disciplinary action.
“While we respect the individual’s right to his opinion, he is not authorised to speak on behalf of the department,” Cheryl Getuiza said. “The individual is in uniform and appears to be on duty, thereby giving the impression that he is speaking in an official capacity.”
The president of the firefighters Local 112 union, Freddy Escobar, told NPR in an email that it encouraged vaccination but “we do not support any city policies that make it a condition of employment”.
“The majority of our firefighters have voluntarily been vaccinated and more are choosing to do so each week,” he said.
In his video, Capt Granucci warned that he had “hundreds” of others supporting him and they’d hired a “shark” lawyer on retainer while considering a lawsuit.
And it wouldn’t be the first such suit across the country as fire departments seem particularly opposed to vaccine mandates.
In Hawaii, a captain tearfully left the department this month over his refusal to get vaccinated – and approximately 1,200 first responders in the state have filed a class action suit in federal court in an attempt to block a mandate being brought in.
The issue has become so contentious in departments across the country that the International Association of Fire Fighters issued a press release last week saying it was “continuing to closely monitor the rapidly evolving situation relating to Covid-19 vaccines and concerns regarding potential vaccine mandates, as well as fielding inquiries from IAFF members who are opposed to the vaccine for various reasons.”
A spokesman for the IAFF on Wednesday declined to elaborate when contacted by The Independent.
According to last week’s release, the IAFF executive board position is that “we strongly encourage all members to get vaccinated and to talk with their primary care or fire department physician regarding the benefits of the Covid-19 vaccine, as well as to address any concerns”.
The release continues: “The IAFF continues to monitor the status of pending legislation; however, because some state and local governing bodies include exemptions for first responders and healthcare providers, we recommend that affiliates confer with their legal counsel.”
The refusal of firefighters and first responders to comply with vaccine mandates in various cities – resulting in their termination – could cause a major predicament with short-staffed departments.
“We are in discussions with the city because our highly skilled and experienced LAFD Firefighters and Paramedics team cannot be easily replaced – especially in a department that is already understaffed,” Mr Escobar, the Los Angeles union official, told NPR.
“The unexpected departure of even a small percentage of our workforce would have a devastating impact on public safety in Los Angeles.”
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