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Several N. Charleston police officers turn in gear as vaccine deadline closes

The City of North Charleston’s vaccine mandate for all employees went into effect Friday at noon.
The City of North Charleston’s vaccine mandate for all employees went into effect Friday at noon.(Live 5 News)
Published: Dec. 3, 2021 at 3:21 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 3, 2021 at 6:22 PM EST
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NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The City of North Charleston’s vaccine mandate for all employees went into effect Friday at noon.

Phil Pendergrass says he was a school resource officer in Charleston County schools. He says about 15 other officers came to City Hall this morning to turn in their gear, in compliance with a letter from the city saying they would need to do so if they did not show proof of first vaccination by noon on Dec. 3.

Officers say it took between two and three hours Friday morning to turn in their gear, phones, laptops, vehicles and equipment.

“That’s a sadness because there’s a lot of good people in there that you know they made their choice to get the vaccine and do support us but their hands are tied,” Pendergrass said. “So we’re giving hugs to people that are crying and saying man this sucks or man you too, because it’s a large number of us.”

According to a letter from the North Charleston Police Department, employees who did not show proof of a first vaccination by noon today are no longer eligible to work.

The notice claims officers are placed on an unpaid leave of absence for the next seven days, until Dec. 10.

This grace period is supposed to give them one last chance to get a shot. If they don’t show proof, their employment will formally end on Dec. 10.

Pendergrass says some officers have already resigned over the mandate and others are making the city terminate them. Pendergrass says he applied for a religious exemption, but it was denied.

“For them to say that our religious beliefs were insincere and some of the matters,” Pendergrass said. “I don’t know how you can judge somebodies religious beliefs and the sincerity of that so that was really shocking.”

City of North Charleston Communications Coordinator Tony Tassarotti says their Human Resources department is working on gathering all numbers for employees who did not meet Friday’s deadline.

Tassarotti says 72 employees were denied exemptions and 20 exemption requests were approved.

Rebekah Watson and Madison Watson say both their husbands were North Charleston Police Officers who also had religious exemptions denied by the city.

“We actually chose not to vaccinate our kids,” Rebekah Watson said. “So this isn’t just about the COVID vaccine for us. It’s been a long held religious belief of us.”

Rebekah and Madison’s husbands both said they did not want to comment on record since they have already been hired by other police or law enforcement offices in the area.

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