Friday, December 03, 2021

Fifteen local WSP troopers lose jobs due to mandate

Assistant Managing Editor | October 20, 2021 1:05 AM

Fifteen Washington State Patrol commissioned officers who cover Grant and Adams counties, as well as other areas in WSP’s districts 4 and 6, of which the counties are a part, were thrown out of their jobs Monday due to not getting the COVID-19 vaccination or approved exemption and accommodations for not getting the shot.

The job losses came after Gov. Jay Inslee imposed a COVID-19 vaccination mandate Aug. 9, requiring most state executive branch employees and on-site contractors and volunteers, public and private health care and long-term care workers to be vaccinated by Oct. 18, with the final dose needed by Oct. 4 to meet the deadline, or risk losing their jobs.

Statewide, 127 WSP employees were “separated,” including 53 civil servants and 74 commissioned officers (67 troopers, six sergeants and one captain), according to a release from the WSP. They were released from their duties “for varying reasons and in varying ways,” the release stated. There are about 2,200 employees in the state’s eight WSP districts.

The county breakdown and names of those who lost their jobs were not available Tuesday because the troopers cover multiple counties, and they were in a tough spot, Chris Loftis, WSP director of communications, wrote in an email.

“These are good folks in a bad situation,” Loftis wrote.

WSP District 6 Public Information Officer John Bryant, who covers Grant County and other areas, said identities of those “released” would not be provided when the Herald asked to speak with former local employees for comment on the mandate.

“Former employees are private citizens who have the same expectation of privacy as anyone else we come in contact with,” he wrote in an email. “We do not pass along contact info in such circumstances.”

The impact of the losses was not known, but WSP leaders were working with a Contingency Planning Team since the mandate’s announcement, the release stated.

“As the agency moves through the next several days, leaders will gauge the immediate actual impact for short-term mitigation,” the release stated. “In that time, the agency will move resources where necessary and specific personnel losses demand adjustment.”

The WSP also plans to review its efficiency and keep recruiting for its three new academy classes in the coming months, the release stated, and similar actions will take place on the civilian side.

“We will miss every one of them,” WSP Chief John R. Batiste said of those forced out, in the release. “I extend a hardy thanks to those who are leaving the agency. 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.”

“We shall do our very best to keep our remaining staff from becoming overburdened by these temporary losses,” he added.

“Covid is a killer and the state is taking action intended to improve public safety,” he said of those still employed. “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.”