The fighting over vaccine mandates continues, but the tug-of-war may soon displace a huge number of Seattle’s law enforcement.
The city of Seattle, Washington, recently established a vaccine mandate for all city employees, which includes police, with a deadline of October 18th – or face possible termination of employment.
Among those who haven’t submitted proof of vaccination are 292 police officers, and an additional 111 awaiting approval of submitted exemption paperwork, according to the Daily Mail. This creates a total of 403 officers that may lose their jobs on the 18th, if Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan enforces the deadline.
The loss would constitute 37 percent of the police force’s total employees. While this would be a staggering number of layoffs in any city’s police department at any time, the current situation of Seattle indicates that losing so many officers at this time would be a catastrophe.
As is, Seattle is already suffering from staff shortages not seen since the 1980’s, a spike in crime (particularly in South Seattle), and a city council that has vowed to de-fund the police, and rejected an initiative aimed at hiring and retention among the police force. The police budget was already slashed by 17 per cent in 2020, and the shortages come from the loss of 300 officers since the beginning of 2020 until now. Officer retention is so serious that sometimes there are as few as 70 officers on patrol at night in the entire city of Seattle.
It’s hard to say for certain if Durkan will actually enforce the mandate and fire the officers. In the past, she has blown hot and cold on the issue. The mayor wrote an email to city staff on Monday saying she values “each of you, and do not want to lose you as employees,” the Daily Mail reported.
In August, when put directly to the question as to whether she will actually fire the officers who are not in compliance with the mandate on the 18th of October, Durkan tried to dodge the question, simply saying “I don’t believe I will be put in that position because I believe officers will get the vaccine.” Given her choice between her heavily liberal constituency (which isn’t friendly towards the police), and the potentially devastating effect of losing hundreds of additional officers, it’s not clear if Durkan really has the wiggle room to say anything besides evasive vagaries.
The Seattle Police Department appears to be bracing for the worst, however. Police Chief Adrian Diaz has prepared his department to transition to “Stage 3 Mobilization,” according to a memo obtained by Fox13.
This is the second-to-highest mobilization, just under a state of emergency, and will go into effect on the 13th of October. The Stage 3 order will put all officers on standby, according to Seattle’s guidelines: “While under the stage 3 mobilization, every sworn member of the department shall be in their class A/B uniform for the duration of their shift. Those members who are in non-patrol units shall be prepared to immediately report to one of the five precincts for 911 call response.”
The situation seems primed for catastrophe, as the mayor and the city council struggle, and fail, to find some kind of solution or compromise, as the deadline looms next Monday.
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