Seattle, WA – The grossly understaffed Seattle Police Department (SPD) is sending non-patrol officers and detectives on emergency calls due to a severe officer shortage that will likely become even worse when the mandatory COVID vaccine mandate deadline hits on Monday.
Sending detectives and non-patrol units to 911 calls as first responders is referred to as “Stage 3” operations within the SPD, according to KOMO.
The agency moved into Stage 3 operations on Wednesday, which the Seattle Police Officer’s Guild (SPOG) described as an “unprecedented move.”
That means any on-duty sworn SPD employee can be dispatched to a call – even education and training employees or those who haven’t been on patrol in years, according to KING.
Over 300 officers have left the SPD in the past year, KOMO reported.
Hundreds of additional officers could be fired on May 18 if they refuse to comply with the city’s mandatory vaccine order.
“We can’t afford to lose one, that’s how desperate we are to hold onto to people,” SPOG President Mike Solan told KOMO. “If we lose more officers the public safety situation will become that much more untenable here.”
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.
City employees who provided proof of their vaccination by Oct. 5 were also awarded with eight hours of paid leave, The Seattle Times reported.
According to the most recent numbers from Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office, 186 SPD officers have still not provided proof of vaccination and 98 more are seeking exemptions, KOMO reported.
A total of 782 officers have submitted proof of their vaccination status.
Chief Diaz sent out a letter to SPD staff about the vaccine mandate 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 had 1,157 fully-trained, sworn officers as of August, according to The Seattle Times.
But 108 of those officers were on disability or leave, leaving the number of officers available to respond to calls at just 1,049.
“How can this city afford more officers leaving at a time when we already have extremely long priority one from police to somebody’s call for desperate help?” Sloan asked. “To me it’s unreasonable.”
With the mandate deadline looming, every member of the SPD who came in to work on Wednesday was required to be in uniform and ready to go out on calls, regardless of their regular assignments, KOMO reported.
Durkan’s spokesperson, Anthony Derrick, said the SPD will have to make due with the officers they have left after the Oct. 18 deadline.
“Mayor Durkan sincerely hopes that anyone at risk of leaving the City or at departments statewide will make the decision to stay by getting vaccinated,” Derrick told the Associated Press.
“The definition of a police officer’s job is to maintain public safety and protect the communities they serve,” he added. “Eighty-eight percent of our Seattle Police Department staff have been vaccinated, so they can continue to do their heroic work to save lives.”