Interim Seattle police Chief Adrian Diaz is urging department staff to get vaccinated ahead of the city’s COVID-19 vaccination deadline for city workers, warning of a possible staffing challenge if they fail to do so.
In a letter to staff Friday, Diaz said the agency has to assume it has hundreds of unvaccinated individuals based on current vaccination information submitted to the department.
“This could create a disruption to unit of assignments,” Diaz wrote.
The Seattle Police Department declined to provide figures on staffing levels and vaccination statuses of employees Friday.
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan issued a directive in August requiring city employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 18. City workers have until Oct. 4 to either receive the second dose of a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to be in compliance with the deadline.
The deadline for SPD employees to submit proof of vaccination is Oct. 5.
While the city of Seattle has reached tentative agreements with most of the labor unions on the COVID-19 vaccination requirement and on pandemic pay, the Seattle Police Officers Guild has yet to reach a tentative agreement on the vaccination requirement.
The tentative agreement between other unions and the city allows employees to avoid termination as long as they receive one dose by Oct. 18 and intend to be fully vaccinated by Dec. 2.
Seattle employees have submitted 9,020 vaccination confirmations, including 7,660 that have been verified so far, Durkan spokesperson Anthony Derrick said. Six hundred religious exemption requests and 98 medical exemption requests have been submitted, Derrick added, declining to share data by department. The city has about 12,000 employees.
In the letter to staff, Diaz said the Police Department has constructed staffing plans to ensure the continuity of services, but needs to know how many individuals are cleared under the city’s requirement, to minimize personnel disruptions.
“Please submit your proof of vaccination — or please go get the vaccine and then submit the proof of vaccination,” Diaz wrote.
Diaz has previously said the department has struggled with staffing and has lost at least 250 officers in the past two years. Often, he has said, the department has had to exclusively focus on the highest-priority calls.
Seattle Times reporter Dan Beekman contributed reporting.