[11/3/21] Vaccine Mandate Affecting Law Enforcement
It’s been two weeks since the state’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate went into effect, and law enforcement agencies are predicting longer response times for emergencies on Highways 153 and 20 after the State Patrol reported losing more than 5% of its staff.
Winthrop Marshal Doug Johnson said the WSP’s short staffing will likely mean longer delays, especially for non-emergency calls like disabled vehicles, saying the response times will be, in his words, “catastrophic for the Highway 20 corridor,” he said. “It puts a greater burden on the sheriff’s office, but it taxes all available law enforcement for priority and emergency matters.”
Of the 127 total employees no longer with the State Patrol statewide, 74 were commissioned officers, including 67 troopers, six sergeants and one captain. Five of those commissioned officers were assigned to district six, which includes Okanogan, Chelan, Douglas, Kittitas, Grant and a portion of Adams counties.
However, local law enforcement agencies said they knew of three troopers assigned to the Okanogan County area who left due to the mandate. Johnson said the Okanogan office saw a fifty percent reduction in staff.
Twisp Police Chief Paul Budrow said the area had already seen a negative effect from the WSP staff losses. On Tuesday October 19, the day after the state patrol firings, there was a rollover crash on Highway 153 at Ross Road. Budrow said a trooper had to come from East Wenatchee because staffing was so short in Okanogan County.
WSP Chief John Batiste said remaining troopers will need to be prepared to do more with less for the time being.