SEATTLE - Both candidates for Seattle mayor, Bruce Harrell and Lorena González, say they support a mandate that will result in termination for city employees, including first responders, who remain unvaccinated by the Oct. 18 deadline.
The mandate could prove disastrous for the city’s public safety at a time of record low staffing and rising 911 response times.
Since the spring of 2020, around 300 Seattle Police officers have left the agency, reducing the number of deployable officers to around 1,000. Starting Wednesday, SPD will move into a "Phase 3 Mobilization," which requires all detectives, even those in specialty assignments, to be prepared to respond to calls for service.
The already drastic staffing situation could be made worse by the vaccine mandate. As of Monday, 214 sworn personnel had yet to submit proof of vaccination. Another 99 are awaiting the result of exemption requests.
While Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan has shown no sign that she will back away from her mandate, the fallout of it will be shouldered by her successor.
In an interview on Monday, mayoral candidate Harrell said his support for the mandate is "unambiguous."
"I do not believe they should have continued employment if they do not take the vaccine," he said.
The stance is precarious for Harrell, who is positioning himself as the pro-police, pro-public safety candidate.
His opponent, current Seattle City Council President Lorena González, took a pledge in 2020 to defund the agency by 50% - a move that ultimately exacerbated an already concerning exodus of officers.
Harrell has pledged to recruit and retain more officers when he takes office. That task will be made more difficult should the city follow through with a mass firing.
But Harrell blames his opponent, not the mandate, for dangerously low staffing.
"We shouldn’t be in this situation to begin with," he said. "She had come out with the narrative to defund the police by 50% knowing that … the officers would either quit or become demoralized and we would have attrition set in at the numbers we’re seeing now."
Reached for comment Tuesday, González said she supports the vaccine mandate and seemed less concerned with the possible deficit of officers. She has long supported investing in alternatives to armed law enforcement.
"Under my administration, we will hold officers accountable when they refuse to comply with public health orders and stand up to the Seattle Police Officers Guild when they engage in tactics that undermine our collective safety," she wrote. "To create sustainable public safety, the next mayor must continue to increase alternatives to armed law enforcement, like our Community Service Officers."
Both debates will air on FOX 13+ and fox13seattle.com.
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