JASON RANTZ

Rantz: Seattle cop tests positive for coronavirus, union demands city response

Mar 19, 2020, 11:42 AM | Updated: 4:42 pm
Seattle police, SPD, coronavirus, coronavirus prisoner...
British Columbia Emergency Photograph, Flickr Creative Commons

A sworn officer within the Seattle Police Department tested positive for the coronavirus, the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH has learned. Now, the Seattle Police Officer’s Guild (SPOG) is criticizing the city for keeping pertinent details too close to the vest, fearing it could put other officers and the community at risk. They’re demanding some immediate changes.

This news comes as a civilian employee at a SoDo SPD facility tested positive, exposing at least five officers to COVID-19. It’s unclear if these two incidents are related.

Police officer tests positive for coronavirus

The unidentified officer tested positive for coronavirus on Tuesday morning, according to a police source. By Tuesday night, the news started to circulate to other officers and SPOG President Mike Solan addressed the rumors the following evening.

“To date, the department has not confirmed nor denied the rumor,” Solan emailed SPOG members Wednesday night. “Having said that, I’m perplexed, disappointed, and angry as to why the department has not.”

About two hours later, SPD Chief Carmen Best sent a department-wide email with the announcement confirming the positive test.

“The employee who tested positive is in isolation and recovering,” Chief Best said in the email. “Anyone who came into contact with the employee was screened by a medical doctor, whose services we enlisted to take care of our personnel.”

As of her email, no other officers tested positive after their screenings. There is no reason to believe there is currently a staffing problem directly related to the positive coronavirus test, but one officer acknowledges how bad the situation could get if a coronavirus outbreak occurs.

The secrecy problem

When the civilian janitor tested positive, the SPD detailed the employee’s race, gender, and position. But when it came to identifying the officer who tested positive, few details were offered.

SPD reached out individually to people they were told may have been in contact with the officer who tested positive.

There are, of course, patient privacy implications limiting the release of certain information. But there’s also a growing concern that officers or staff members may have come into contact with the officer and that it didn’t come to the attention of SPD leadership. That means, they may have been unintentionally left off the list of those who needed to be tested.

At the same time, one officer tells me some officers are low on cleaning supplies and masks to deal with the calls they take.

Police union reacts

SPOG sent Chief Best and Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan an email Thursday morning demanding a plan to establish protocols during possible exposure. Those demands include:

  • The dissemination of “basic information regarding any SPD Employee who has tested positive for COVID-19.”
  • An action plan to decontaminate any “SPD Facilities and/or vehicles in the event of an SPD Employee or community member who is symptomatic and/or has tested positive for COVID-19 and had contact with department facilities or shared vehicle.”
  • A list of all union members currently under quarantine or isolation, updated daily.
  • A plan to consistently sanitize facilities as a proactive measure.

They also asked for a series of recommendations, including allowing certain staff to work from home to limit possible exposure.

The update.

The Seattle Police Department finally released a statement to the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH.

To ensure the privacy of all employees and to remain in compliance with HIPPA laws, the City of Seattle will not comment on any individual employee diagnoses. The safety of our employees is a top priority, and the Seattle Department of Human Resources quickly developed protocols if any first responder or employee tests positive or interacts with someone who tested positive.

If someone is diagnosed with COVID-19, the Seattle Department of Human Resources will work to immediately notify all those who came into close contact with that individual. The department will also work with Finance and Administrative Services (FAS) to conduct an enhanced cleaning of the employee’s workspace and other workspaces as necessary.

This statement does not address the concerns of SPOG. At a press conference in progress (as of 2:49pm), the SPD has so far ignored this incident or the requests of SPOG.

Update #2

“Our first responders are on the frontlines of this pandemic, working around the clock to respond to the needs of Seattle’s communities, and it is a top priority for the City to ensure they are healthy. To ensure the privacy of all employees and to remain in compliance with HIPPA laws, the City of Seattle will not comment on individual employee diagnoses, however, the City in partnership with the Seattle Fire Department and Seattle Police department, is proud to have stood up pilot COVID-19 testing for first responders and the Seattle Department of Human Resources quickly developed protocols if any first responder tests positive or interacts with any residents or other personnel that tests positive. These protocols have been deployed for both SPD and SFD personnel in recent weeks. In the initial days of the pandemic, SPD and SFD also made significant changes to their dispatch protocols to better protect first responders and have worked with Public Health Seattle & King County to notify SFD and SPD on dispatches where residents later tested positive.

On daily calls with Chief Best and Chief Scoggins, the Mayor receives a daily update on first responders impacted by other illnesses and COVID-19, including individuals tested, quarantine, or isolated.

As we combat this outbreak, it is critical that first responders have the information and equipment they need to continue doing their jobs.”

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3-6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here. Follow @JasonRantz on Twitter.

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Rantz: Seattle cop tests positive for coronavirus, union demands city response