According to Mittendorf – who took comments from Whatcom County Sheriff Bill Elfo – Whatcom County is also seeing a temporary shortage of deputies. As a result the agency is taking on extra work because of staffing shortages at other police agencies.
Apparently, Elfo said that Washington state accountability legislation aimed at law enforcement agencies that was enacted in 2021 was prompting officers to leave the state. Elfo made these comments on Tuesday, Feb. 22, after he briefed the Whatcom County Council’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee about a recent shooting that left two deputies wounded. “Another fallout we are seeing is some good officers in Washington are leaving the profession and moving on to other states,” Elfo said.
“We are working on backfilling these positions as quickly as possible without compromising hiring standards, but there are inherent delays in the selection and training program,” Elfo said. Training can take months, even for “lateral hires” who are experienced peace officers, he said.
A State Patrol statement in October 2021 said that 74 officers “separated” from the department because of Gov. Jay Inslee’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate.
Elfo offered a list of “index crimes” and cited statistics showing the rapid rise in crime over a six-month period.
▪ Burglaries up 71%, from 125 to 198.
▪ Robberies up 700%, from 0 to 7.
▪ Theft up 34%, from 202 to 272.
▪ Car Theft up 112%, from 53 to 111.
“The situation in Whatcom County mirrors trends that are being seen statewide with regard to more crime,” Elfo said.
My opinion? Mittendorf and Elfo’s comments are correct. Undoubtedly, many police officers simply don’t want to get vaccinated. And in lieu of Black Lives Matter protests, there’s a popular refrain echoing through urban police precincts, rural sheriff’s offices and city halls everywhere in between: Officers are fleeing America’s police forces in big numbers, officials say. And the timing couldn’t be worse, amid a rise in murders and shootings. Many argue cities must hire more police, but against the backdrop of nationwide scrutiny of police killings, morale has dropped to the point that few people want to be officers.
Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.