SEATTLE - Seattle’s elected leadership say more first responders have stepped up to begin receiving the COVID-19 vaccination, but dozens of police officers and firefighters could find themselves without a job when the deadline strikes at midnight.
Officials insist public safety remains a top priority and the public can count on police and firefighters in an emergency.
"If someone calls 911 there will not be significant impacts on response," said Seattle’s Mayor Jenny Durkan.
The Seattle Police Department is already dealing with dwindling numbers of sworn officers on the beat. The risk that a mandate could drive those numbers down at one point was a serious concern, but not anymore according to Durkan.
"We’re in much better shape than we thought we would be because so many people have done exactly what we asked them to do," Durkan said.
By Monday 91% of SPD employees were reported as being vaccinated, according to Durkan’s office. The Mayor said about two dozen employees have not yet submitted paperwork declaring an intent to vaccinate or a request for exemption.
Officer Michele Letizia has been with SPD for twenty years and says he is ready to risk losing his job to avoid getting the vaccine.
"I feel if we lose this battle, they can mandate the vaccine, what’s the next step?" he asked.
The Seattle Fire Department reports 93% of staffers are already vaccinated, according to the mayor’s office. About 16 employees have not yet declared intent to vaccinate or a request for exemption.
Seattle Fire veteran Josh Gibbs emptied his locker last week after learning his request for religious exemption was denied.
"I’m very angry but I’m trying to hold it together for my family," Gibbs told FOX 13 News.
SFD Chief Harold Scoggins says it hurts to lose talent like Gibbs, but insists a vaccinated staff protects the city and people who call 911 for help.
"We may lose some folks but we’re confident we’re going to get a unit out the door to respond," Scoggins said Monday.
"They’re not even talking the number of people seeking exemption," said SPOG’s Mike Solan.
The Seattle Police Officers Guild says emergency response times will suffer due to the vaccine mandate. Solan claims the real number of SPD officers who could lose their jobs is much larger than city officials claim.
"Sadly this mandate will remove over 100 officers as it stands and that’s unacceptable," Solan said.
Durkan’s office told FOX 13 News it does not yet have concrete data and will not until the vaccine deadline is reached by midnight. The mayor added the city would work with employees who showed an intent to begin the vaccination process in order to keep them on the payroll.
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