Some 200 Seattle police officers may lose their jobs due to their resistance to getting vaccinated against COVID-19 or handing over personal medical data, according to a report.
That represents about 20 percent of the department’s deployable staff and the ailing agency has already lost 300 cops following last year’s push to defund law enforcement organizations, KTTH conservative talk radio host Jason Rantz reported Monday.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced a sweeping order in August requiring most state employees to get vaccinated by Oct. 18 or face termination. Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan put out a similar mandate for city employees, including police officers, the Seattle Times reported last month.
Hours later, the Seattle Police Officers Guild said Durkan did not consult the union before ordering the mandate while noting that the police department was already mired in a “staffing crisis” that has partly contributed to an uptick in crime.
“Given this crisis, which in part resulted in an alarming crime wave, can Seattle now endure more losses of police officers due to Mayor Durkan’s vaccination order?” the union said in an Aug. 9 statement.
But some Seattle cops still don’t believe getting the jab is necessary after being on patrol for the last 17 months without being vaccinated, Rantz reported Monday. The police union has been negotiating with city officials over Durkan’s mandate and an agreement could come as soon as this week, according to the report.
Messages seeking comment from Seattle police and Durkan’s office were not immediately returned early Tuesday.
KOMO reported last week that several unions representing Seattle city employees, including police officers and firefighters, were negotiating terms governing how city employees would comply with the mandate.
“We could potentially have a lot of officers that could be terminated,” Seattle Police Officers Guild president Mike Solan said during an Aug. 18 podcast, KOMO reported. “Why are you threatening us with our jobs [if] you don’t get this vaccination. It’s unbelievable to me, it doesn’t make any sense.”
Durkan’s office confirmed last week that negotiations to work out an amendment to current collective bargaining contracts with cops and firefighters were ongoing.
“The city has begun bargaining the impacts of the vaccine requirement with unions, including the Coalition of City Unions, SPOG and IAFF Local 27,” Durkan spokeswoman Kelsey Nyland told KOMO. “We continue to prioritize good faith engagement with our labor partners throughout this effort to keep our employees – and the communities we serve – safe.”
It’s unclear how many of the 200 Seattle officers who haven’t been vaccinated or refuse to hand over their personal data will be satisfied under the reworked terms.
Homicides in Seattle jumped 68 percent from 2019 to 2020 — marking a 26-year high — and the city is on pace to eclipse that mark in 2021, Rantz reported.
The city’s police department currently has 1,000 deployable officers, roughly 300 to 500 cops short of desired levels, according to the report.
The department’s website, meanwhile, listed a total of 1,433 sworn officers, including 1,325 who are deployable, as of Tuesday.