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Tennessee governor invites unvaccinated out-of-state cops to join its highway patrol

FILE - Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee speaks to reporters Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021, in Nashville, Tenn. Lee has signed legislation putting public schools and districts at risk of losing civil lawsuits if they let transgender students or employees use multi-person bathrooms that do not reflect their gender at birth. Gov. Bill Lee signed the bill Friday, May 14, 2021 cementing another policy into law in Tennessee that LGBTQ advocates say discriminates against their community. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, file)
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee speaks to reporters Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021, in Nashville, Tenn. He released a video on Wednesday inviting law enforcement officers from across the country to join the Tennessee Highway Patrol.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee has a pitch for law enforcement officers across the country, regardless of their COVID-19 vaccination status: Join the Tennessee Highway Patrol."Our force is one of the most professional in the country," he said in a video released Wednesday. "And we won't get between you and your doctor."In his message, addressed to cops from New York to Los Angeles, the Republican governor said the state would even help cover moving expenses for those who join the force. He directed those interested to apply online."We believe that you would be a great fit for our state," he said, before outlining some of the reasons he believed the state would appeal to them. Those include its beauty, low cost of living, lack of income tax and full support of law enforcement."I'll work to make sure your freedoms are protected," he added. "We stand with our law enforcement, and we'll stand with you, too."The Tennessee Highway Patrol thanked Lee for his "strong support" in a tweet.Lee's message comes at a time when many public agencies are requiring their personnel to get vaccinated, and facing pushback from police officers and the unions that represent them.That's despite the fact that COVID-19 is the leading cause of on-duty deaths for law enforcement officers in 2021, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page. Some 280 officers died of the virus this year, more than five times the number of those who died by gunfire.Member station WPLN in Nashville reports that the state highway patrol has declined to require the vaccine. The highway patrol is also offering full benefits, a car, free uniforms and free training to qualified applicants, "including those who have to leave other departments because they haven't gotten the shot," WPLN adds.Tennessee isn't the first state to make this kind of offer.Last month, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said he was trying to recruit out-of-state officers and sheriff's deputies who are at risk of losing their jobs for not getting vaccinated or disclosing their vaccination status. DeSantis, a Republican, told Fox News he hopes to sign legislation that would award a $5,000 bonus to any officer who relocates to Florida.

This story originally appeared on the Morning Edition live blog. Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.