A nurse loads a syringe with the Pfizer covid-19 vaccine in Jackson, Miss., on Sept. 21. (Rogelio V. Solis / Associated Press)

A nurse loads a syringe with the Pfizer covid-19 vaccine in Jackson, Miss., on Sept. 21. (Rogelio V. Solis / Associated Press)

Editorial: Keep covid politics out of city’s plea for police

A Mill Creek city official’s call for police applicants was more about anti-vax politics than jobs.

By The Herald Editorial Board

A Mill Creek City Council member’s pitch last week for law enforcement officers to apply for that city’s police department vacancies was more of a political statement than a help-wanted ad, a post that is likely tied to the council member’s plans to seek higher office next year.

As reported Monday by The Herald’s Rachel Riley, city council member Vincent Cavaleri starts a Oct. 18 Facebook post with condemnation of Gov. Jay Inslee’s mandate that state employees, including troopers and others with the Washington State Patrol, be fully vaccinated by that date in order to keep their jobs, referring to it as Inslee’s “execution day.”

“I could tell you what a despicable man this governor is,” Cavaleri continues, “but you already know that. I am here to offer a solution for anyone of my brothers and sisters that wear her (sic) uniform and want to come work for my city.”

Mill Creek, Cavaleri emphasized, “will not be mandating a vaccine to anyone of our personnel.”

That Mill Creek is down seven officers from a force of 26 isn’t disputed. Other law enforcement agencies in the county have more than the typical number of vacancies to fill currently; Everett, by comparison, has some 17 vacancies at its police department.

As well, it’s clear that scores of former state troopers may be looking for work following the state’s Oct. 18 deadline. At least 74 state troopers are among the nearly 2,000 state workers who have quit or were terminated for failing to comply with the covid vaccine requirement.

And it rightly remains a decision for local governments to determine whether to require vaccination for their employees.

Yet, instead of a general request for applicants to join Mill Creek’s police department, Cavaleri, who works as a corrections deputy with the county sheriff’s office, took the occasion to turn the request into a political opportunity to rail against covid vaccine mandates and the governor.

For Cavaleri, who has announced a run for Congress and Washington state’s 1st District seat, it’s not his first such statement. Earlier in September, the six-year council veteran, pitched a resolution in opposition to “vaccine passports” — which no one on the council or in the administration had proposed — as “an intrusion of individual privacy and freedom.” In proposing the resolution, which failed before the rest of the council, Cavaleri drew parallels between vaccine passports, apartheid and Nazi Germany, a comparison that has earned condemnation for similar comments by U.S. political officials elsewhere.

The comparison, more than being inaccurate, is vile.

Deborah Lipstadt, a professor at Emory University and a Holocaust historian, told the Jewish publication, Forward, such comparisons were “disgusting.”

“You have to be very careful when making comparisons to the Holocaust,” she told Forward. “The Nazis made Jews wear the yellow star … as a means to humiliate, to terrify, to separate, to persecute them. This (a vaccine passport) is to allow people to return to a normal life.”

And the vaccine mandates, such as that ordered by the governor for state employees, are saving lives.

We won’t know how many lives of state employees will be saved by the vaccination mandate, but we do know how many law enforcement officers died of covid-19 in 2020.

At least 264 police officers died in the line of duty in 2020, according to the National Law Enforcement Memorial and Museum’s fatalities report, reflecting a 96 percent increase in deaths over 2019. The leading cause of death — for more than half of those 264 fatalities — was covid-19. Firearms-related deaths killed 48 officers in 2020; traffic-related fatalities claimed another 44; it was covid-19 that killed 144 officers, “confirmed by their agency to have engaged in line-of-duty action or activity” when infected and whose deaths were attributed to covid-19 and its complications.

If police departments are losing officers to the mandates, they are also losing them to covid.

“Covid-19 is absolutely devastating police departments around the country,” Mark Singer, a professor at Cleveland’s Case Western Reserve University, told the university’s website. “I’m certain there are local departments that have been ravaged by this disease, as well as our hospitals’ staff, firemen and EMS. We need to do everything we can to promote healthy, safe first responders.”

Seeing nearly 2,000 state employees lose their livelihoods is not the outcome anyone — from the governor on down — wanted to see; the intention was to prompt employees to get a vaccine that is safe and effective and that would allow them to move on with their work, serving the citizens of the state. But the state, in the interests of health and safety for employees and public, alike, took the necessary step of requiring vaccination.

Mill Creek, along with other cities in the county, will set its covid and vaccine policies as it sees fit, but the city’s new police department hires — along with being given a badge and gun — should also be pointed toward the nearest jab.

Clarification: The above editorial has been changed to reflect that Vincent Cavaleri is a corrections deputy with the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office.

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