Seattle police union president says some officers are ‘willing to walk away’ from job in solidarity

Oct 12, 2021, 5:03 AM

seattle police, vaccine...

Supporters demonstrate during a Rally to Support the Seattle Police Department in front of City Hall in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

(Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

Come Oct. 18, if Seattle police officers, King County sheriff’s deputies and detectives, frontline health care workers, firefighters, and paramedics are not yet vaccinated against COVID-19, they risk losing their jobs.

That’s due to a statewide vaccine mandate from Gov. Inslee, and similar county and city mandates from King County Executive Dow Constantine and Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan.

As far as Seattle police officers who may lose their job in the next week, Mike Solan, president of the Seattle Police Officers Guild, says he’s not sure exactly sure how many may leave, but it’s not looking good.

“This is about just saving jobs, period,” Solan told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson Show. “We’ve had many conversations ever since the CHAZ/CHOP, we’ve lost close to 350 cops because we’re literally politically betrayed by our elected officials. Even, let’s just say we lose 50 cops — even if we just lose one — it’s devastating to how many losses we’ve already incurred.”

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This comes at a time when Seattle is seeing an increase in gun violence, Solan notes, and says there won’t be many officers left if the SPD loses the amount of people that has been highlighted in recent media stories.

“I’m not sure how we answer those 911 calls,” Solan said. “This isn’t alarmist, but this is reality here. And many of the people that I represent are just fed up, and this is the last straw with them as they feel that they’ve been targeted for just being cops here in the city, as they think that this mandate has been politicized. And there’s not much more trust in our elected officials anymore.”

“I’m just fearful that this is another blow where we just lose quality people to do the job of policing,” he added.

From Solan’s standpoint, the officers that would leave are a combination of people who don’t want to get vaccinated either for medical, religious, or other reasons, but also some who are taking a political stand. It could even include officers who are vaccinated but who would leave their job to stand with their fellow officers who aren’t vaccinated.

“In our opinion, it’s not about vaccinated versus the unvaccinated,” Solan said. “The politics of this is simply standing in the breach to block against any form of segregation.”

Solan says for 18 months, SPD has responded to calls with masks and social distancing whenever possible. He also notes that they were discouraged from getting vaccinated when it was voluntary as firefighters were in the first tier, and police were second.

“The optics of police jumping the line to get a vaccine was problematic for the city,” Solan said. “And we were told not to get it. Now, fast forward 18 months later, those same officers who could not work from home during the pandemic are now being told that they’re no longer needed if they don’t get this vaccine. Mind you, 85% of our populace is vaccinated.”

“So I’ve heard from many people if it was OK for us to work during 18 months where we could not work from home, we were told not to get the vaccine, now we can’t work without the vaccine for fear of infecting other people when we have a low transmittal rate in our membership,” he added. “To me, what I hear is that this is indeed a politicization of just their jobs and another attempt to push forward defunding by removing police jobs.”

Solan says he’s heard that a number of union members are just fed up, and he says they’re “sick of the segregation, the divisiveness in our society, and just the political betrayal from our elected officials.”

“This is an accumulation of all of that sentiment,” he said. “And I think it’s coming to a crescendo in this next week.”

It’s been said that as many as 200 officers have not yet submitted proof of vaccination. Solan says he doesn’t know an exact count and hasn’t heard one since last Wednesday.

“I have no doubt that those numbers have fallen. People at the last minute will upload some of their vaccine verifications,” he said. “But we could stand to lose a lot of cops in this next week.”

Seattle Police Department mobilizes for officer shortage due to vaccine mandate

He’s heard that people may be waiting to the last day to submit their proof to give some sort of leverage, but says that’s not something the union is “proactively messaging” to members. Solan says they’ve made it clear all along that they will notify members of the last day to upload their vaccination proof.

“That’s in an effort to save everyone’s jobs and to try to stick together here as a strong union to not allow politics to divide us, meaning vaccinated versus unvaccinated,” he said.

However, as he mentioned earlier, there is a chance vaccinated officers walk away, too.

“The brotherhood, the sisterhood is still here and some people are willing to walk away from the job just to show solidarity to the fellow brothers and sisters because they’re so tired of the division and the all out assault against police,” Solan said.

Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from noon – 3 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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