The Seattle Police Department (SPD) will send detectives and non-patrol officers to respond to emergency calls as part of an emergency dispatch plan amidst a department staffing shortage.
The emergency dispatch plan – referred to as “Stage 3 emergency operations” – means that any sworn officer in the department (not just patrol officers) will be mobilized to respond to 911 calls. The move comes after the department has lost more than 300 officers this year, according to KOMO News.
According to King5, the SPD and the Seattle Fire Department (SFD) are both preparing for staff shortages and increased emergency response times as more officers are set to leave following Gov. Jay Inslee’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
The SFD plans to weather the storm by cancelling non-essential training, community events and limiting annual building inspections to focus on schools.
“We can’t afford to lose one, that’s how desperate we are to hold onto to people,” said police union president Mike Solan. “If we lose more officers the public safety situation will become that much more untenable here.”
Solan added that he thinks more officers will leave due to COVID-19 vaccine mandates, and that nearly 300 officers could be terminated if they do not comply by getting vaccinated. As of writing, around 100 officers who received medical exemptions are still barred from returning to work.
Data from the Seattle mayor’s office shows that 782 officers have submitted proof of COVID-19 vaccination, while 98 are seeking exemptions and 214 have not submitted any paperwork.
Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office echoed Gov. Jay Inslee’s mandate that requires all first responders and healthcare workers to get vaccinated by Oct. 18.
“The definition of a police officer’s job is to maintain public safety and protect the communities they serve – 88% of our Seattle Police Department staff have been vaccinated, so they can continue to do their heroic work to save lives,” Spokesman Anthony Derrick said in a statement.
Derrick added that police are already required to be vaccinated against Hepatitis.
“Mayor Durkan sincerely hopes that anyone at risk of leaving the City or at departments statewide will make the decision to stay by getting vaccinated,” Derrick said.
Seattle’s staffing shortage comes as gun violence in the area is on the rise.
By the end of September this year, 73 people had been killed and 283 injured in shootings in King County, according to data from the King County Prosecutor’s Shots Fired Project.