Nation/World

74 officers leave Washington State Patrol rather than comply with COVID vaccine mandate

SEATTLE — As of Monday, 127 individuals had separated from employment at the Washington State Patrol because of the coronavirus vaccine mandate, WSP said in a statement released early Tuesday.

Among them are 53 civil servants and 74 commissioned officers: 67 troopers, 6 sergeants, and 1 captain, according to the statement.

“We will miss every one of them,” said Chief John R. Batiste in the statement. “I truly wish that you were staying with us. You have my utmost appreciation for the hard and successful work that you have provided during your valued WSP careers. You will forever have our respect for your courage and your commitment in all you have done on behalf of the agency.”

Earlier this month, the agency’s vaccination rate was at 93% as 152 of the agency’s 2,200 employees had not submitted paperwork to show they were vaccinated. That was a sharp increase from earlier data showing the State Patrol’s vaccination rate as of Sept. 20 was just under 63%.

Since Gov. Jay Inslee issued the order — one of the strictest in the nation, with no option for regular testing of those who forgo the shots — state employees have protested, filed lawsuits and sought exemptions to avoid the vaccines.

[As COVID-19 vaccine deadline passes, vast majority of Washington state and Seattle workers have gotten shots]

Inslee spokesperson Tara Lee wrote earlier this month that the increase in the State Patrol’s vaccination rate, “shows the vaccine mandate is working.”

“We are greatly encouraged by rising numbers across state agencies,” Lee added. “And, are very glad that state employees are choosing to get vaccinated and remain in the workforce. We believe the verified numbers will continue to go up as we get closer to the deadline.”

[No jab, no job: WSU fires football coach Nick Rolovich, Washington state’s highest-paid employee]

WSP said agency leaders will assess the actual impact of the loss and move resources and people around where necessary in the coming days. Vigorous recruiting will continue that will fill three new academy classes in the coming months, the State Patrol said.

“As for the more than 2,000 individuals who elected to stay with our agency, I am forever thankful,” Batiste said in the statement. “We have the responsibilities of the agency to carry forward and I am not going to ask you to do more with less. We shall do our very best to keep our remaining staff from becoming overburdened by these temporary losses.”

In a message to all WSP personnel Monday evening, the chief said, “COVID is a killer and the state is taking action intended to improve public safety. I thank you for staying on post and staying in service to this state and agency. Better days are ahead. Believe that and know I believe in you.”

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