More than 200 Seattle police officers walked off the job last year, according to the Seattle Police Department, following weeks of protests and heightened “anti-police rhetoric.”
Like the Louisville, Kentucky, police department, which revealed, earlier this week, that it is in a “staffing crisis” following the departure of nearly 200 of its own officers, Seattle’s police department is losing police officers “at a record pace.”
“Police Chief Adrian Diaz said Tuesday that the department is in a ‘staffing crisis’ after more than 180 police officers quit last year and another 66 officers left their jobs so far this year, according to police data,” per The Associated Press.
“We are at record lows in the city right now. I have about 1,080 deployable officers. This is the lowest I’ve seen our department,” Diaz said in an interview with local media.
Seattle was an epicenter of anti-racism and anti-police brutality protests last summer, and the Seattle police department was left under siege over an “occupied protest” of the city’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. Seattle’s city council is also among a handful of city governments that pursued aggressive efforts to “defund the police,” though they eventually settled for aggressive cuts to the law enforcement budget.
Seattle’s former police chief, Carmen Best, who resigned last summer, said the budget cuts and anti-police rhetoric left her feeling as though her department was “destined to fail,” according to an interview she did with NPR. And the Seattle Times Editorial Board laid the blame for the city’s rising homicide rate — a full 50% higher in 2020 than in 2019 — squarely at the feet of the city’s progressive legislators.
“The Seattle City Council’s reckless rhetoric and slapdash moves to defund the police have hurt — not helped — the safety of residents citywide. The list is long: Funding cuts without the former chief’s insight and a climate that spurred an exodus of officers have hurt the department’s ability to respond to trouble,” the Seattle Timed ed board wrote. “Detectives and other specialists are pulling routine patrol shifts to respond to 911 calls rather than working to prevent or investigate crimes because the department is so short-handed. After calling 911, residents throughout the city have had to wait for police response that, in some instances, never happens.”
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan also blamed the city council’s rhetoric, in her own statement on the police attrition rate this week.
“Despite an increased focus on recruitment and retention, the Seattle Police Department continues to lose sworn officers at a record pace due to ongoing budget uncertainty,” Durkan’s office said in a statement. “Based on exit interviews, we know the Council’s threats of continued layoffs or cuts are having a direct impact on decisions to leave the department.”
She also lambasted the council’s plan to make further cuts to the police budget.
“The City Council is considering new cuts of $5.4 million to the police department’s budget,” the AP noted Thursday. “But Durkan is cautioning against additional cuts without addressing hiring and retention of officers.”
The department says it is hiring a number of community service and liaison officers, but it needs front-line police officers to help handle the city’s rise in crime. The city’s police chief also says he hopes the resignations are on a decline.
“I’m hoping that it starts to level off,” Diaz said. “I do see that this year we could have a significant amount of people leaving.”