About a third of Ramsey County Sheriff's Office employees are in violation of the county's COVID-19 vaccination and testing policy and could face a five-day suspension starting in mid-February, county leaders said.

In an update delivered Tuesday to the Ramsey County Board, county manager Ryan O'Connor said the 134 employees could face a five-day suspension starting Feb. 14.

The county's overall vaccination rate among employees stands at about 84%, according to O'Connor. Another 11% of county employees chose to be tested weekly, which also satisfies the county's requirement. Some 182 employees are apparently doing neither, with the majority of them in the sheriff's office, O'Connor said. "We are seeing a localized challenge of compliance at this point," he said.

It's not clear how Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher views the matter. Neither he nor his spokesman responded to e-mail or phone calls Tuesday.

Any discipline still is more than two weeks away and could be avoided if employees comply. Ramsey County board chair Trista MatasCastillo said the county isn't trying to pick a fight.

"The goal is to keep employees safe and to mitigate the loss of life and certainly not to be responsible for any loss of life," she said Tuesday. "It's unfortunate that most of the people that aren't in compliance are coming from law enforcement. They have just such a high risk with their jobs with their community interactions. We want to make sure that they are safe and that they are not spreading it."

The policy requires either proof of full vaccination or, if an employee is not vaccinated or does not wish to disclose their vaccination status, proof of negative tests on a weekly basis.

A Ramsey County spokesman said all county elected officials are in compliance. "Elected officials and senior department staff also have a responsibility to enforce Ramsey County policies," said county spokesman John Siqveland.

The Ramsey County Deputies' Federation said that it supported the county's policy. Federation president Allison Schaber, in a statement on Tuesday, said the union also supports an employee's right to choose to be vaccinated or tested.