Seattle, WA – With the mayor’s recruiting efforts in a freefall, Seattle police officers said the department doesn’t have enough officers available to effectively respond to 911 calls.
KTTH reported that the city has been using fuzzy numbers to describe the staffing situation at the Seattle Police Department, which has been experiencing a mass exodus of experienced officers for more than a year.
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan initially denied reports that the department was losing officers at an alarming rate.
But in November, Durkan supported a city council vote to approve $1.24 million for officer recruiting and retention efforts, KIRO reported.
Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best claimed the department had so-far hired 97 officers in 2019, with a goal of 104 total before year-end.
“We’re digging ourselves out of a hole,” Chief Best said. “We’re going in the right direction, but we still have work to do.”
But KTTH reported that Seattle PD had only experienced an actual net gain of 16 officers in 2019.
It turned out that, of the 97 new hires, there have already been 81 separations, most of which were resignations.
Many departing veteran officers have blamed the “Seattle mentality” that has left them afraid to do their jobs as they were trained for fear of being disciplined.
And while Seattle’s population has grown exponentially over the past 40 years, the size of the city’s police force has stayed almost the same, as it was pre-Amazon.
“Let me put it to you in this perspective,” Seattle Police Officer Kevin Stuckey, president of the Seattle Police Officer’s Guild, said. “In 1970, we had in the police department… 1,170 police officers in total. Today I think we’re close to 1,400. The city has almost tripled in size and we’ve only increased department numbers by 300.”
But only half of the 1,400 officers on the Seattle PD’s payroll are assigned to patrol the city’s streets and neighborhoods, KTTH reported.
Data showed that the Seattle police had 722 officers assigned to patrol in the city as of November.
“Seven hundred would be a start, but we would need to probably be 800 or 900 for a city of this size to provide the services that are needed throughout the city,” Officer Stuckey said.
That number was down from 756 officers on patrol in January, KTTH reported.
But officers doubted there were anything close to that number of officers actually on patrol.
“If [there are] 700 people available, then I would like to see those numbers and where they are and how they plan on deploying them, because they haven’t as of yet,” the union president told KTTH.
The Seattle Police Department’s official number of police who were actually on patrol as of October was 472, or 34 percent of all police officers in the city.
However, neither number accurately reflected how many actual bodies police supervisors were working with to cover patrol shifts, KTTH reported.
That’s because the 472 included officers who were on vacation, officers who are out on sick leave with long and short-term illness or injuries, officers who are going through mandatory training, and those who were assigned to desk duty for other administrative reasons.
“That’s a dangerously low number year-round, but especially during the holiday season,” one Seattle officer said.
Seattle recently announced “emphasis patrols” in certain neighborhoods in response to residents’ concerns about an expected increase in crime during the holidays, KTTH reported.
But police sources said that if the department doesn’t have the resources to cover regular patrols, they certainly aren’t staffed for the “emphasis patrols” that have been promised.
“Those are going to have to come from officers on overtime or extending their shifts, and augmenting a shift,” Officer Stuckey said. “Unless they plan on using some detectives to actually come in to get into uniform and actually work the streets. Outside of that, they’re gonna have to do this on an overtime basis.”
The police department confirmed that the patrols would be conducted on a voluntary basis with officers being paid overtime, which means that if not enough officers volunteer, some patrols won’t happen, KTTH reported.