PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Nearly one year after becoming eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, 76% of Providence police officers have opted to get the shot, according to the Police Department.

Spokesperson Lindsay Lague said 21% of officers have chosen not to get vaccinated, while data was not collected on 3% of officers who are out of work or on military leave.

The vaccination rate of Providence officers is lower than their counterparts at the Fire Department, which had a 97% vaccination rate as of early October. (Firefighters, who are EMTs, fall under the state’s vaccine mandate for health care workers.)

The officers are also less vaccinated than the general population of adults in Rhode Island, 93% of whom have at least one shot. Providence city employees are 86% vaccinated, according to a City Hall spokesperson.

The vaccination data for Providence police officers was collected after Mayor Jorge Elorza implemented a new vaccine policy over the summer, requiring city employees to provide proof of vaccination by Oct. 1 or submit to weekly COVID tests.

While vaccine rates for other city departments were released shortly after the deadline, the Police Department was delayed in collecting the proof of vaccination because the union representing police officers sought to negotiate the details of the policy.

Police officers were among the first to become eligible for the vaccine in Rhode Island in January, since they interact frequently with the public and have a higher risk of exposure. COVID-19 was the number 1 cause of line-of-duty deaths of police officers nationally in 2020 and 2021, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page, which tracks officer deaths.

In Rhode Island, the only line-of-duty death of a police officer in 2021 has been Barrington Sgt. Gino Caputo, who died in September after a five-week battle with COVID-19.

The Providence Police Department had several COVID outbreaks during the pandemic, including the rank-and-file and the command staff.

Col. Hugh Clements, the police chief, said officers who are not vaccinated are required to wear masks in addition to the weekly COVID test.

“I’ve always felt it’s a matter of choice,” Clements said when asked why the officers have a lower vaccination rate than the general public. “It’s not a mandate right now.”

Asked if he strongly encouraged officers to get vaccinated because of their interactions with the public, Clements said he did encourage it while also supporting the officers’ choice.

“We put that strong message out there,” he said. “I got it as soon as I could, but I’m older.”

Calling the vaccines “safe and effective,” Elorza said Tuesday he hopes more city workers will get the shot.

“I am hopeful that by hosting employee vaccine clinics and making vaccines more accessible, more and more city employees, including police officers, sign up for an appointment, ” Elorza said in an email.

Vaccine rates for police officers nationally have been lower than the general population, but have increased in recent weeks in cities that implemented a true mandate without a testing alternative.

The vaccination rate for the New York Police Department rose from 73% to 85% in the week leading up to a Nov. 1 deadline, according to Reuters. (The union representing New York police officers has challenged the mandate in court.)

Providence’s police union also opposes an outright mandate, according to Officer Michael Imondi, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #3.

“We’ve always stood by your body, your choice,” Imondi said Tuesday. “We’ll never say you have to go get it.”

Imondi said he was on the fence about getting the shot himself, but ultimately got the Moderna vaccine to protect his elderly parents.

Asked why he thought the officers were getting vaccinated at lower rates than the general adult population, Imondi said there is a facet of the force that doesn’t trust the vaccination or the government officials pushing for it.

“I’m not going to impose my personal opinion on it as far as me getting vaccinated,” Imondi said. “Nobody likes to be forced to do anything.”

Steph Machado ( is a Target 12 investigative reporter covering Providence, politics and more for 12 News. Connect with her on Twitter and on Facebook.