Seattle, WA – Nearly 20 percent of Seattle’s police officers have left the department over the past 18 months, with more expected to turn in their badges in the coming months.
Seattle Police Department (SPD) Chief Adrian Diaz said the agency is in the midst of a severe officer shortage, and that at least 260 members of the force have quit since early last year, CBS News reported.
At least 249 of those officers have left in the past 12 months alone, according to FOX News.
“We are at record lows in the city right now,” Chief Diaz told KING late last month. “I have about 1,080 deployable officers. This is the lowest I’ve seen our department.”
SPD Officer Clayton Powell, an African-American man with nearly 27 years of service with the department, said he planned to put in 30 years before retiring, but that the anti-police sentiment sweeping the nation has persuaded him to leave the ranks early.
“The support that we had in my generation of policing is no longer there,” Officer Powell told CBS News.
He said concerns and frustrations about “leadership” – or the lack thereof – is the biggest driving force behind the mass exodus, CBS News reported.
Riots erupted one year ago in the wake of the in-custody death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and continued for months, leading to clashes between officers and anti-police demonstrators.
During the chaos, city leaders opted to let rioters run police out of one of their precincts and handed the mob an entire neighborhood to turn into an “autonomous zone” for more than a month, CBS News reported.
Rioters attacked Officer Powell and his fellow officers with cinder blocks, bottles, rocks, and other various objects on multiple occasions, he said.
The veteran officer said police were expected to just “stand there and take it,” CBS News reported.
“You see businesses get destroyed and families lose their livelihood because of that destruction and we can’t do anything about it,” Officer Powell told CBS News. “We’re not allowed to intercede.”
Seattle Police Officers Guild President Mike Solan said that as “hundreds” of SPD officers were injured during the riots, elected officials blamed police “for being the instigators” of the violent uprisings, FOX News reported.
The city council then proceeded to slash the SPD budget.
Another $5 million budget cut is currently being considered, CBS News reported.
“If anything, we need more funding,” Officer Powell insisted.
Solan said he believed the “overall anti-police sentiment” has accelerated officers’ resignation or retirement plans, according to FOX News.
“Morale is not good, and that’s because we don’t have the political support from our elected officials,” he explained. “And as we’re seeing officers flee this area, it’s a direct result of that lack of political support.”
Chief Diaz said he hopes the droves of officers leaving the SPD “starts to level off” soon, but he acknowledged he doesn’t expect that to occur, KING reported.
“I do see that this year we could have a significant amount of people leaving,” he said.
Meanwhile, the city’s shooting and homicide rates have continued to climb upwards and the SPD’s response time has slowed down, Chief Diaz told CBS News.
According to the Barnard Center or Research on Women, a social justice group, police budgets nationwide were slashed by approximately $840 million in 2020, CBS News reported.
“They will decimate numbers to fill the uniforms to protect our citizens, and to what gain, if any? What’s the end game?” Solan asked FOX News. “I don’t see how that’s a recipe for our communities to feel protected.”