Law enforcement officers and the COVID-19 vaccine mandate

Need a little break from budget talk? This is the issue for you!

Vaccine Mandate and the KCSO and SPD

In order to be fully vaccinated by the date mandated, law enforcement officers needed to get their second shot by yesterday, Monday, October 5. There has been a lot of speculation as to how many officers will refuse to get vaccinated.
At this morning’s King County Law & Justice meeting, Councilmember Dunn said 50-100 KCSCO officers may leave as a result of the vaccine mandate.
Paul Faruq Kiefer
Per councilmember Dunn, some 50-100 KCSO officers may leave the department in response to the county’s vaccine mandate; he says that police departments in his district have received applications from some of those officers.
But wait, there’s more! Carolyn Bick reported on a lengthy email sent yesterday by Sergeant Lefler to the entire King County Sheriff’s Department offering to “lead the charge” against the vaccine mandate and claiming there are thousands who have requested exemptions. To be clear, KCSO employs about 750 deputies.
Meanwhile, over in Seattle, reporter Brandi Kruse of FOX13 says SPD has told her that as of today, 354 sworn officers haven’t yet submitted proof of vaccination. Paul Kiefer breaks down next steps in the tweet thread below:
Paul Faruq Kiefer
In theory, the at-risk letter for city employees goes out tomorrow – and the letter going to SPOG members will be unlike the letter sent to other employees. In less than two weeks, the city will have the option to implement the mandate without reaching an agreement with SPOG.

OPA News

Yesterday the OPA released its report on the abandonment of the East Precinct that took place in June 2020, leading to the creation of CHOP/CHAZ. It did not find that either former Chief Best or Assistant Chief Mahaffey neglected their duty nor that the department should be found at fault for waiting as long as it did to reoccupy the East Precinct.
What does come across in the OPA report is the complete chaos and mess involved in the abandonment of the East Precinct. From an interview with a witness:
“Upon arriving at the East Precinct, WO#1 described a “gut-wrenching situation” as officers in an “absolute panic” were “ripping open lockers” and “kicking in doors in the offices” in order to secure weapons, computers, and hard drives. WO#1 stated that he organized the supervisors to get them to “take a breath” and approach the situation in a “methodical manner.” The overall effect on the officers was “hugely demoralizing,” according to WO#1. WO#1 described seeing “a lot of officers […] crying” that day and that the situation was “one of the more difficult events that I’ve been though in my life.””
There is also a lack of clarity as to whether then Chief Best (NE#1) was aware of the plan to abandon the precinct, or whether it was entirely Assistant Chief’ Mahffey’s (NE#@2) decision:
“Ultimately, the evidence is conflicting as to whether NE#1 explicitly approved the plan to evacuate the East Precinct, or if NE#2 made this decision independently. OPA believes it much more likely that this ambiguity was the result of a number of complicated decisions being made during a highly stressful, rapidly evolving situation. However, regardless of this dispute of fact, the evidence is clear—predominantly based on NE#1’s statement—that, even if NE#2 decided independently to evacuate the East Precinct, he had full discretionary authority to make that decision.”
The OPA’s only policy recommendation is regarding improvement of external communications, which seems like an obvious place to focus. However, the OPA refrains from offering any guidance on creating guidelines for when and how SPD should evacuate precincts in future. As Kevin Schofield writes:
But what is perhaps more unsettling is the lack of any recommendations for how decisions should be made around SPD’s potential abandonment of facilities, regardless of whether the emergency is a riot, a fire, an earthquake, or some other form of natural or man-made event. Crisis-response experts make clear that as much as possible planning and decision-matrices should be done in advance, when the pressure of the moment isn’t clouding judgement. In this case, it’s clear that SPD did not (and probably still does not) have clear criteria for when (or how) to evacuate a precinct building, and how to do so in a manner that minimizes impacts and maintains public safety and police services. If that isn’t fixed, then the city will have truly learned nothing from last summer’s events.
In related news, OPA Director Andrew Myerberg is interviewing for a job in Phoenix, Arizona so he’s actively looking for other opportunities.
Amy Sundberg
Hmm, Andrew Myerberg is interviewing elsewhere. Interesting.

Quick News Bullet Points

  • This week’s Seattle Council Briefing was blessedly short!
Amy Sundberg
Good morning! Welcome to today’s Seattle Council Briefing. The Council has a few days executive sessions this morning so with any luck this meeting will be on the brief side this time. 😂
  • An opinion piece in Crosscut by Katie Wilson opines that in the current redistricting process, it might be best if the partisan commissioners cannot reach agreement by November 15, as the State Supreme Court could then hire an independent expert who would draw the maps based on constitutional standards instead of political considerations. The piece also gives a good summary of some of the issues currently at play in this process.
  • The King County Public Safety Advisory Committee has released their report with recommendations for hiring a new sheriff and improving public safety at the county level. You can read it yourself here!
  • Another tidbit from today’s King County Law & Justice meeting: the new director of OLEO reported that the King County Sheriff’s Office has not moved forward on the majority of OLEO recommendations for policy and procedural changes. He also mentioned the need to remove barriers for oversight from collective bargaining.
Paul Faruq Kiefer
Another note from Dir. Abouzeid (as part of OLEO’s annual report): KCSO has not moved forward with the vast majority of policy/procedure changes recommended by OLEO.
There’s a steeply declining curve starting at a one minute reporting delay after a crime that predicts whether or not a rapid response will directly lead to an arrest. At five minutes, a rapid response is no more effective than one taking an hour.
Out of 274,000 911 calls in 2019, just about 3,200 were classified as “In Progress / Just Occurred” (“IPJO”) on the public SPD crime dashboard. Some of them weren’t crimes (such as risk of suicide or injury accident, where “someone with a gun” might not really be the optimal responder). So on the order of 1% of 911 calls are cases where a rapid response by an armed officer is highly likely to lead to an arrest as a result.
This is particularly relevant during the current SPD budget discussions since 911 call response times are generally held up as a compelling reason why SPD staffing numbers should be maintained/increased versus being shrunk.

Recent Headlines

Police killings of civilians in the US have been undercounted by more than half in official statistics

How Tacoma mayoral candidates compare on the issues | Crosscut

Understanding the Mayor's Proposed 2022 Budget, Part III: Expenses