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The Seattle Police Department is facing a crisis. Low staff due to the “Blue Flu,” extended leave, and officers removed from duty have caused a staffing crisis that threatens the city’s safety.
Conservative radio host Jason Rantz reported this week that the SPD’s “Unavailable” list, which includes officers who “are on extended leave and cannot be deployed” has grown “considerably” as of December 10. Officers on the list have been absent for at least 14 days.
Rantz reported that the SPD is also struggling to fill vacant patrol slots and is currently below minimum staffing. Rantz noted that every precinct in every district is facing a shortage of officers.
“The HR Unavailable list was at 126 on Oct. 20, two days after the COVID-19 vaccine mandate deadline passed and Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan pulled nearly 100 officers from duty,” Rantz reported. “Now, the HR Unavailable list has ballooned to 155, according to an SPD source. This is on top of the 335 exodus of officers since 2020.”
“The list includes illness, disability, and maternity and paternity leave. But officers burning accrued vacation or sick time will also appear on the list. It’s a move an officer typically takes before separating from the department. The SPD will likely see several separations before the end of the year,” Rantz continued. “Many of the officers that are out of service come from patrol. It’s causing a staffing crisis.”
Seattle Police Officers Guild President Mike Solan told Rantz that the list had “explode[d]” recently.
“We’ve seen that list explode since the riots due to a lot of the injuries, of people not being able to get surgeries scheduled on time because of the pandemic, and a number of [other] factors,” Solan said. “The political environment we’re in … created a situation in our community that we don’t have enough cops. Period.”
Solan went on to say that the “city cannot hire enough people to solidify the vacancies and the continued vacancies.”
“That, to me, is alarming. Not just because we’re losing members. But it’s creating a working condition issue. Every watch, every shift, every precinct. That creates a safety concern for the cops who were just answering that basic 911 call. Are there going to be enough people to back each other up in terms of creating a safe, to a degree, a safe call?” he added.
An SPD spokesperson acknowledged the staffing issue, but said they could not comment further.
“Not speaking to any numbers, but every officer that is on that list is an officer that isn’t available to answer 911 calls and can add to the response time for any call,” the spokesperson told Rantz. “As we have stated in the recent past, the SPD remains in a staffing shortage, and we continue to need additional people. This reason is why we continue to advertise for new recruits as well as ask for additional funding from the city council.”