SEATTLE – Already facing a staffing crisis, the Seattle Police Department is bracing for the possibility that hundreds of officers will fail to meet an Oct. 18 vaccination deadline.
As of Oct. 6, 292 sworn personnel had yet to provide proof of a COVID-19 vaccination. That number is down from 354 on Tuesday.
To add another layer of concern, Seattle PD Spokesperson Sgt. Randy Huserik confirmed to FOX 13 News that there are an additional 111 officers awaiting results of exemption requests. Those 111 are not counted in the 292 figure – meaning if their accommodations are denied, the actual number of unvaccinated officers could be as high as 403.
“We value each of you, and do not want to lose you as employees,” Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan told city staff in an email Monday. “But the people that count on you the most are the ones that need you to get vaccinated.”
Since the vaccine mandate was announced in early August, Durkan has remained evasive about whether she will truly fire unvaccinated officers at a time of low staffing and high 911 response times.
Seattle PD has already lost more than 300 officers since the height of the defunding debate in 2020 – putting the number of deployable personnel close to 1,000.
As she enters the final months of her term, Durkan is faced with a dilemma: go back on her vaccine mandate or thrust the city into a public safety emergency.
Neither scenario is politically palatable.
In anticipation of the Oct. 18 deadline, Interim Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz advised his department to transition into a “Phase 3 Mobilization,” effective Oct. 13.
According to an internal memo obtained by FOX 13 News, the change in posture will require all sworn personnel to be on standby to respond to 911 calls. That includes detectives assigned to specialty units.
Gov. Jay Inslee told FOX 13 News that agencies across the state have contingency plans to help ensure basic levels of staffing.
“These are hard-working people,” Inslee said of first responders who have been working on the front lines of the pandemic for 18 months. “They’re doing good work. We want them to stay on the team.”
But for some, it’s too late.
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Source: Fox 5 NY