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One-third of Seattle cops haven’t submitted proof of COVID vaccination

UPDATED: Tue., Oct. 5, 2021

More than 350 Seattle Police Department officers had not submitted proof of coronavirus vaccination by Tuesday.  (Alan Berner/The Seattle Times)
More than 350 Seattle Police Department officers had not submitted proof of coronavirus vaccination by Tuesday. (Alan Berner/The Seattle Times)
By Lewis Kamb</p><p>and Daniel Beekman Seattle Times

With less than two weeks until a city deadline, more than 350 Seattle police officers – a full one-third of all cops available to be called into service in the city – have yet to submit proof showing they’ve been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, a department spokesperson acknowledged Tuesday.

Sgt. Randy Huserik, a spokesman for the department, confirmed the figures on Tuesday, but said officers who haven’t submitted vaccination records are not yet out of compliance with the city’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate.

The total number of officers who had not submitted vaccination records – 354 – was the latest count presented during a videoconference among Seattle police commanders Tuesday, according to sources familiar with the presentation. The number represents 33% of all officers in service, the sources and city figures say.

“The actual deadline isn’t until Oct. 18,” Huserik said. “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.”

But the numbers presented in Tuesday’s SPD meeting are the first publicly confirmed by the department that specify how many officers have yet to offer proof of vaccination under the city’s mandate. Later on Tuesday, the department posted a graphic showing its employee vaccination numbers after inquiries by The Seattle Times.

In August, Mayor Jenny Durkan issued a directive requiring city employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 18. Because vaccinations take two weeks for full efficacy, city employees needed to receive their second shots of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, by Monday, according to Durkan’s office.

Tuesday, meanwhile, marked a deadline for most nonpolice employees to receive city-offered incentives for getting vaccinated.

Durkan’s office said Friday that, in all, city employees had submitted 9,020 vaccination confirmations and about 700 exemption requests, describing the data as preliminary. Seattle has about 12,000 employees. The mayor’s office declined to share data by department.

The city reached tentative agreements regarding Durkan’s vaccination requirement last month with most labor unions that represent city employees. The agreement, which union members are still in the process of ratifying, says employees who have one dose by Oct. 18 and who intend to get a second dose by Dec. 2 can go on leave in the interim.

The deal also says employees who provided proof of vaccination by Oct. 5 will get eight hours of extra paid time off.

The city has yet to reach an agreement with the Seattle Police Officers Guild, however.

In an open letter Friday to department employees, Diaz urged “anyone who has not submitted this information to please get it done.”

“This could create a disruption to unit of assignments,” Diaz wrote.

The department declined to provide specific figures then about its staffing levels and employee vaccinations. But Diaz added in his letter that “we have to assume we have hundreds of unvaccinated individuals,” based on the paperwork submitted at the time.

Some officers may be holding off to get their vaccines, or to submit paperwork verifying that they’ve done so, until later this month.

Police guild president Mike Solan, in an email sent Friday to rank-and-file officers, said SPD had “sent out conflicting information to our members regarding the COVID-19 Vaccination Verification Timeline.”

“It appears they have a concern of the lack of vaccination uploads as they try to properly plan staffing contingencies,” according to Solan’s email, which was obtained by The Seattle Times. “To be clear, the Mayor’s Vaccination Mandate states the FINAL date to submit your vaccine verification to the City is October 17, 2021, at 2359 hours.”

Solan did not respond to messages left for him Tuesday.

At the SPD meeting on Tuesday, Assistant Chief Todd Kibbee presented the latest department numbers on unvaccinated employees to top brass, captains and lieutenants as part of staffing contingency planning should SPD face reduced staffing levels, the sources said.

In the event officers without vaccination verifications aren’t allowed to work, detectives in office assignments will be deployed to respond to 911 calls, the sources said.

As of August, SPD’s latest count of fully trained, sworn officers provided to the Seattle City Council stood at 1,157. With 108 of those officers on leave or on disability, the overall number of “officers in service,” or those able to respond to calls, stood at 1,049, according to the latest figures.

In August, Solan said the majority of SPOG members were vaccinated. But the Durkan administration said it couldn’t confirm that at the time.

Meanwhile, someone set up an “SPD United” website urging police officers to resist the mandate. The site, created anonymously, included a downloadable flyer for distribution and stated: “We must stand as one and not comply with the city’s vaccination status mandate.”

A disclaimer said the site was not endorsed by SPOG, and Diaz said the site conflicted with SPD’s goal of full vaccination for employees.

SPD sent the site to the Office of Police Accountability for review. But an OPA spokesperson said it was unlikely that the office would investigate the website because it was not clear that a particular policy had been violated.

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