Seattle, WA – The Seattle Police Department could potentially lose another third of its already-depleted force by the middle of the month due to the city’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
The City of Seattle adopted a mandate imposed by Washington Governor Jay Inslee which requires all healthcare workers and state employees to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18 if they want to keep their jobs, KING reported.
In order to meet the deadline, employees needed to have received the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine or their second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine by Oct. 4 to qualify as being fully vaccinated by Oct. 18.
Employees who provided proof of their vaccination by Oct. 5 were also awarded with eight hours of paid leave, The Seattle Times reported.
But as of Oct. 5, as many as 33 percent of the SPD’s sworn employees had not submitted proof of vaccination, according to statistics released by the department.
That means the city could soon lose 354 sworn officers on top of the hundreds of officers who have left SPD since early last year.
Chief Diaz sent out a letter to SPD staff on Oct. 1 imploring them to “get it done.”
“At the moment – we have to assume we have hundreds of unvaccinated individuals based on the information submitted. This could create a disruption to unit of assignments,” the chief wrote. “Please submit your proof of vaccination – or please go get the vaccine and then submit the proof of vaccination.”
Chief Diaz reminded his officers that Oct. 4 would be the last day to receive the vaccine in order to qualify for the Oct. 18 “vaccine mandate deadline.”
The SPD officers who have not submitted proof of being fully vaccinated are not technically in violation of the city’s mandate until the record submission deadline of Oct. 18, SPD spokesperson Sergeant Randy Huserik told The Seattle Times.
“The actual deadline isn’t until Oct. 18, so we will continue to urge people to get their cards in during the next two weeks, and then figure out what our hard numbers will become Oct. 19,” Sgt. Huserik said.
Employees citywide have submitted approximately 700 vaccine exemption requests to Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office, but it is unclear how many of those exemption requests came from SPD employees, according to The Seattle Times.
The SPD had 1,157 fully-trained, sworn officers as of August, according to the paper.
But 108 of those officers were on disability or leave, leaving the number off officers available to respond to calls at just 1,049.
SPD Releases Current Numbers for Employee COVID Vaccination Status https://t.co/MfBvnYBlyf
— Seattle Police Dept. (@SeattlePD) October 6, 2021
The SPD has lost more than 250 police officers in the past two years, resulting in increased response times due to staffing shortages, KING reported.
SPD Officer Clayton Powell, an African-American man with nearly 27 years of service with the department, told KING in May he planned to put in 30 years before retiring, but that the anti-police sentiment sweeping the nation persuaded him to leave early.
“The support that we had in my generation of policing is no longer there,” Officer Powell told CBS News.
He said concerns and frustrations about “leadership” – or the lack thereof – is the biggest driving force behind the mass exodus, CBS News reported.
Riots erupted 18 months ago in the wake of the in-custody death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and continued for months, leading to clashes between officers and anti-police demonstrators.
During the chaos, city leaders opted to let rioters run police out of one of their precincts and handed the mob an entire neighborhood to turn into an “autonomous zone” for more than a month, CBS News reported.
Rioters attacked Officer Powell and his fellow officers with cinder blocks, bottles, rocks, and other various objects on multiple occasions, he said.
The veteran officer said police were expected to just “stand there and take it,” CBS News reported.
“You see businesses get destroyed and families lose their livelihood because of that destruction and we can’t do anything about it,” Officer Powell told CBS News. “We’re not allowed to intercede.”
Seattle Police Officers Guild President Mike Solan said that as “hundreds” of SPD officers were injured during the riots, elected officials blamed police “for being the instigators” of the violent uprisings, FOX News reported.
The city council then proceeded to slash the SPD budget.
Solan said in May he believed the “overall anti-police sentiment” has accelerated officers’ resignation or retirement plans, according to FOX News.
“Morale is not good, and that’s because we don’t have the political support from our elected officials,” he explained at the time. “And as we’re seeing officers flee this area, it’s a direct result of that lack of political support.”