As the deadline looms for county employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and news of officers resigning and retiring, King County Councilmember Kathy Lambert called on Executive Dow Constantine to address new and existing vacancies within the Sheriff’s Department.
“Vacancies in the Sheriff’s Department diminish our ability to create a safe place for residents to thrive in King County,” Lambert Said. “Low morale, lack of public support, and the vaccine mandate have created challenges to retaining and recruiting sheriff deputies.”
In August, Executive Constantine announced that all county employees would need to be fully vaccinated by October 18 to remain employed with the county. Recent negotiations with some labor groups have extended that deadline until December 2.
“The primary concern of mine, and my constituents, is the potential wave of resignations or terminations that are coming as a result of the vaccine mandate and department morale,” Lambert said. “Not only do these vacancies reduce our ability to protect the public, but it also creates an unsafe work environment for remaining deputies. County residents and our deputies deserve better.”
In a letter to Executive Constantine, Lambert requested advanced planning to address the potential wave of vacancies. The request included: the most recent projection of vacancies resulting from the vaccine mandate, the most recent number of vacant positions for commissioned officers, the executive’s plan to fill all budgeted vacancies and new vacancies resulting from the vaccine mandate, the executive’s plan to ensure safe working conditions for deputies while vacancies are unfilled, and an estimate of additional funding needed to effectuate the plan. The council is set to begin negotiations on the 2021-2022 supplemental budget later this month.