MARYSVILLE — Washington State Patrol troopers warn of an exodus due to the governor’s vaccination mandate.
Those unvaccinated employees could be coming to local police departments.
Robert Lamay is one of them. Based in Yakima, he said he hasn’t gotten any vaccine as an adult. The same goes for the one against COVID-19 which the governor is requiring for state employees, like troopers. In fact, none of his family has received the vaccine, he said.
Lamay is less than three years short of retirement, but he’s willing to “pull it” because of his deep Christian convictions, he said. Lamay has filed for a religious exemption to the requirement, but he is not confident it’ll be granted.
“I’ll be fired and I’m prepared for that,” he said in an interview.
When he posted on the networking social media site LinkedIn saying he was willing to lose his job over the immunization, departments across the country flocked to recruit him. Marysville Police Chief Erik Scairpon responded, hoping Lamay and state patrol colleagues in similar predicaments would consider his Snohomish County department.
Marysville is offering up to $20,000 in hiring bonuses to in-state officers who come to work in the city. To qualify for the $20,000, the officer must be coming from within the state and have at least six years of experience. Under three years of experience could land a new hire $10,000; between three and six years is worth $15,000. The rewards are lower for those coming from out of state.
Lamay would qualify for the $20,000, which gets fully paid out after two years in Marysville. He said he has gotten several calls from the department.
Scairpon pointed to the incentives as a sign of the desperation his department faces in recruitment. The money, however, hasn’t attracted experienced police to Marysville.
Marysville’s department currently has 11 vacancies, more than usual. The department has 76 commissioned officers when fully staffed.
“I’m not looking to put Marysville in the middle of the vaccine debate, if you will, but I do have a responsibility to try and recruit qualified police officers,” Scairpon said.
Sometimes, Scairpon shares news articles about officers afflicted with COVID-19 with his staff to “help them have an understanding of the impact this can have.”
The number of law enforcement officers across the country who died in the line of duty in 2020 more than doubled over the previous year, according to data compiled by the Officer Down Memorial Page. The leading cause of death, by far, was COVID-19.
So far this year, over 130 law enforcement officers have died from COVID-19, according to the nonprofit.
About 75% of Marysville’s officers are vaccinated, Scairpon said last Monday. While he’d love to get that to 100%, he doesn’t think government should force the issue.
“What I would hope for is that if we did recruit an officer who was unvaccinated that, because of the positive leadership environment that we’ve built here, we’d be able to help change their mind,” Scairpon said. “And help them be safer, help them keep the community safe.”
If officers had been fired from their previous positions due to noncompliance — such as losing their jobs over a required vaccine — that would be taken into account in the hiring process, Scairpon said.
The Everett Police Department’s recruitment officer also attempted to lure Lamay with a sweetener. Like Marysville, Everett offers a $20,000 incentive to experienced in-state officers who come to the city.
Everett police “does not currently consider an applicant’s vaccination status as a condition of employment,” Everett police officer Aaron Snell said in an email.
In a staff including over 800 troopers, vacancies at state patrol have numbered in the 80s for several years, said spokesperson Chris Loftis. The mandate could cost many more troopers, Lamay said.
“Huge, huge,” he said of the effect he expects on the state patrol.
The Washington State Patrol Troopers Association union advertised on its website a late August rally at the Capitol in Olympia to “Stop The Mandate.”
Loftis wouldn’t speculate about how many troopers the state patrol could lose from the requirement. The organization has asked employees to voluntarily send in proof of vaccination.
“We’re certainly aware that the mandate has (been) met with a good bit of resistance out there,” Loftis said. “Anything of this nature where people are leaving not because of health or because of injury or because of retirement but because of philosophical or conviction-based decisions, that’s a challenge for us.”
Lamay is wary of more local vaccination requirements that could stop him from finding another job in law enforcement. It is the first thing he asks about when talking to other departments.
Snohomish County Executive’s Office spokesperson Kent Patton said Tuesday the county is not currently looking at a localized vaccine mandate for law enforcement.
Jake Goldstein-Street: 425-339-3439; email@example.com. Twitter: @GoldsteinStreet.