ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The St. Petersburg Police Department said their final goodbyes Tuesday to an 18-year veteran on the force, Officer Michael Weiskopf. Weiskopf died after what his family described as a hard-fought battle with COVID-19.
Karen Weiskopf, his widow, said she spent months trying to convince her husband to get vaccinated. He was ready to take her advice once he was already too sick and, in the hospital, battling the virus.
“Now was not Mike’s time,” she said with emotion. “He made a risky decision not to vaccinate like so many others.”
St. Petersburg Police Chief Anthony Holloway worries more officers could be in danger if they don’t get vaccinated. Nationwide, there has been 233 line of duty law enforcement deaths since January. Nearly half of those, 124, have been from COVID.
“I have signed 6 letters to other chiefs and sheriffs because they’ve lost somebody due to COVID. I don’t want to sign any more letters,” Chief Holloway exclaimed. “That’s why I’m asking every deputy and police officer, please, if you don’t want to do it for yourself; do it for your family. Do it for someone.”
St. Pete Police recently initiated a new policy. All new officers joining the department must be vaccinated against COVID-19. As for existing officers, the Chief will continue to plead for them to get vaccinated.
Officer Weiskopf’s widow asked for a vaccination clinic in her husband’s honor outside of his funeral at the St. Pete Coliseum, but just nine people rolled up their sleeves, including Detective Stefani Lesperance. She said she was already planning to get her second dose of the vaccine and this opportunity seemed fitting.
“I thought this was a good opportunity to go, show respect for my fallen comrade and then get my shot,” she added.
Weiskopf’s funeral came just one day after Polk County Deputy Christopher Broadhead was laid to rest after he lost his battle with COVID-19. His funeral encouraged 94 Polk County Sheriff’s Office employees to get vaccinated. Seven did so at a clinic at his funeral and 87 did so at the sheriff’s office afterward.
Most law enforcement agencies aren’t tracking how many officers and deputies are inoculated. Those that are, have low vaccination rates. Holloway hopes it doesn’t take losing another decorated officer to change their minds.
“If you’re going to wear a bulletproof vest to protect yourself, then take a shot and protect yourself and your family,” he elaborated.