Seattle, the liberal city that still pursues defunding police, could lose a significant portion of its police force this month as officers who refuse to comply with a COVID-19 vaccine mandate risk termination.
What are the details?
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan (D) announced in August that all Seattle city employees would be required to be fully vaccinated.
To comply with Durkan's order, city employees, including Seattle police officers, are required to submit proof of COVID-19 vaccination or their exemption from the mandate by Oct. 18. Personnel who fail to provide proof of either risk being fired.
The mandate has put the Seattle Police Department in a bind because, according to KCPQ-TV, 292 sworn personnel have yet to submit proof of vaccination. To compound problems, Seattle PD spokesperson Sgt. Randy Huserik told KCPQ that an additional 111 officers were awaiting decision on exemption requests.
That means, if every exemption request is denied and the remaining officers do not submit proof they are fully vaccinated, the Seattle Police Department stands to lose over 400 sworn officers — or about 40% of the police force.
If that were to happen, Seattle would descend into chaos. The city has already lost more than 300 police officers since 2020 over "defund the police" and anti-police riots, KCPQ noted.
What is the city's plan?
Anticipating that a significant number of officers will be fired, the Seattle Police Department plans to make all sworn personnel available to respond to 911 calls.
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There are concerns that response times could suffer due to staffing shortages depending on how many officers face losing their jobs after the Oct. 18 deadline. The department is prepared to activate a stage three mobilization plan on Oct. 13.
Under the plan, all on-duty sworn personnel, like detectives, education and training section employees and people within the department with patrol backgrounds will report to work in uniform and ready to respond to 911 calls if needed.
Still, the Seattle police union is working with the city to find alternative means of compliance that do not require termination for officers not vaccinated against COVID-19.
"Any loss of an officer right now would be detrimental to our city's current public safety crisis," Mike Solan, president of the Seattle Police Officers Guild, said.
"We would like the city to acknowledge the staffing crisis that we're in, and how detrimental it will be if we lose even 50 officers due to this mandate. There has to be some type of reasonable accommodation, as we've seen in other cities across this nation provide to their community," he added.
While some police departments nationwide risk losing scores of officers, potentially jeopardizing public safety, over vaccine mandates, Democratic Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva has said he won't take that risk.
"This issue has become so politicized, there are entire groups of employees that are willing to be fired and laid off rather than get vaccinated," Villanueva said last week. "So I don't want to be in a position to lose 5-10% of my workforce overnight."