Rantz: Seattle mayor downplays crisis, falsely says only 24 officers didn’t turn in vaccine paperwork
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan told reporters on Monday that “only about two dozen officers have not put in their [vaccine] paperwork” ahead of the midnight deadline. This is remarkably, and intentionally, misleading.
The actual number of officers who are either unvaccinated or have not turned in their vaccine paperwork is at least 123. But it could also be in excess of 250.
If officers do not comply with the vaccine mandate, they are to be fired under Durkan’s order. But staffing for the Seattle Police Department is at historic lows with only 1,048 deployable officers at the ready to police the city. The SPD cannot stand to lose any more officers.
Explaining Durkan’s deeply misleading numbers
The 24 officers Durkan cites are officers who have not submitted any paperwork nor asked for exemptions, the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH has confirmed.
But there are also 99 officers who have asked for an exemption from the mandate. These officers are not included in Durkan’s count. That puts the actual number of officers who are either unvaccinated or unwilling to submit paperwork at 123.
According to multiple sources, while these exemptions have been approved, their accommodations have been denied. This means the city must determine — under a limited timeline — as to whether or not they will terminate these officers or continue good faith bargaining with the Seattle Police Officers Guild on how to proceed. The city is hoping that some of the officers hoping for exemptions will submit to the vaccine to save their jobs.
It’s unclear if these 99 officers are able to work while the city figures out if they will be terminated. Given Governor Jay Inslee’s move to fire unvaccinated officers — or officers who do not comply with the mandate — there is political pressure on Durkan to follow through.
But the situation might be even worse.
Staffing could be even worse
It remains unclear if the city is counting officers who are on the Human Resources “unavailable” list. This means the officer is on extended leave. It could be anything from being on maternity or paternity leave and recovering from injury or officers using accrued vacation time or serving in the military.
That number is believed to be around 125, but could be as high as 150, according to several sources.
If these officers are not included in the list the mayor offered, the city could have in excess of 200 officers who would be up for termination.
“I’m gonna give it to you straight and if they’re not including the 100 officers that have asked for an exemption, which currently they’re still not being accommodated for, I would say that they’re playing a numbers game,” Seattle Police Officers Guild president Mike Solan explained to the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH.
Why spin the numbers?
Durkan can claim a technicality that she is not being dishonest. That’s, of course, disingenuous. The only concern people have is whether or not staffers are vaccinated or unvaccinated and how many will be fired. The parsing out numbers to downplay the staffing crisis seems intentional.
So why the spin? Because Durkan has a big decision to make.
Any cuts to current staffing would turn a crisis into an epic catastrophe. The city cannot afford to lose any more officers. There are times right now where staffing is under the minimum requirements in certain neighborhoods. They lean on nearby precincts to supplement their low staff. It’s why 911 response times are so long.
It’s in Durkan’s best interest to downplay the potential cuts because she may either need to walk back her threats of termination or go through with them.
If she walks them back, she’ll create even more resentment within the SPD. Officers who were forced under threat of their livelihood to get a vaccine against their religious beliefs or in conflict with their position that this is government overreach, will realize that Durkan was bluffing with her threats. How can anyone take her seriously in the waning days of her administration?
But if Durkan fires this many cops — even if just the 24 who didn’t turn in paperwork as of Monday afternoon — she would make this city even more unsafe. With escalating violent crime and sky-high 911 response times, it would be very easy for criminals to take advantage.
So what will Durkan do? Walk back her threat and show it was toothless, alienating even more officers in the process? Or will she fire droves of officers, putting the safety of the community on the line? Could she suddenly grant accommodations for those who asked for exemptions? Good luck explaining the disparate treatment to the other city workers who were denied or fired.
Durkan put herself in this position. So how will she get out of it?
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