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Seattle police chief urges COVID-19 vaccination to avoid staffing disruption after mandate deadline

Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz says, as of Oct. 1, the department must assume it has hundreds of unvaccinated workers.

SEATTLE — The Seattle Police Department could face a new staffing challenge when it comes up on the Oct. 18 vaccination deadline for city workers.  

In a letter to staff Friday, Chief Adrian Diaz said based on information submitted so far, the department has to assume it has hundreds of unvaccinated individuals.

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

In August, the city of Seattle adopted Gov. Jay Inslee’s mandate that state employees and health care workers be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18 or be fired. There is not a COVID-19 testing option, but employees can apply for religious or medical exemptions.

Diaz said Seattle police have put together staffing plans to continue emergency and legally mandated services after the vaccination deadline. But to avoid disruptions and have the most accurate staffing count for planning, Diaz urged workers to get vaccinated and submit their proof of vaccination.

The mandate could compound what police department leaders have called a “staffing crisis.” During a hearing in September, Seattle City Councilmember Alex Pedersen cited figures that more than 300 officers and detectives have left the department in the last year and a half.

Oct. 4 is the last day to receive the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine and still make the deadline for full vaccination.

On the state level, data released from the Office of Financial management show the mandate is working: Two-thirds of Washington workers have gotten their shots, and the state employee vaccination rate increased 19% from Sept. 6 to Sept. 20.