Seattle defunded the police. Now desperate for cops, they’re offering up to $25k bonuses for new hires.

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SEATTLE, WA – The City of Seattle was perhaps one of the worst-hit cities in the aftermath of rioting and violence on police after the death of George Floyd. 

As a result of that and the city leadership potentially terminating hundreds of unvaccinated employees, the city is now exploring offering large hiring bonuses.

Mayor Seattle, Jenny Durkan, has announced with an emergency order a plan that she believes will bring more officers into the city.  Her office plans on offering hiring bonuses of up to $25,000 for those who are hired from other agencies and $10,000 for brand new officers, general staff, and dispatchers.  She said:

“When residents call 911, they expect an officer to show up…and when they call the 911 emergency line, they expect that someone will answer the phone. 

Hiring, recruiting and training takes months, and we need to ensure we can have trained and deployable staff.  Seattle cannot keep waiting to address the real public safety officer hiring and retention crisis we are experiencing in Seattle right now.”

There are several reasons why the city of Seattle is in a “hiring and retention crisis.” 

While some point to the pandemic as the cause (we will explore a little further on) others blame the defunding of the police movement.  In May of 21, CBS News reported that more than $840 million were cut from US police budgets during the fallout from the death of Floyd in 2020.  

CBS notes that this drastic reduction of funding for police in Seattle has caused a large part of the shortage.  CBS claims that the Seattle Chief of Police told them that 260 officers have left the agency in the past year and a half. 

That equates to almost 20 percent.

CBS News spoke to a twenty-seven-year veteran of the Seattle Police Department, Officer Clayton Powell, who at the time announced he was retiring early.  Powell told CBS:

“The support that we had in my generation of policing is no longer here.”

He then spoke of how it was like during the violent summer riots and protests by saying:

“When you see businesses get destroyed and families lose their livelihood because of that destruction and we can’t do anything about it.  We’re not allowed to intercede.”

Police Chief Adrian Diaz noted his concern that so many officers were leaving the agency.  He said:

“You know, it does [cause concern] because we saw our shootings go up.  We saw our homicides go up.”

The narrative of police leaving Seattle because of the alleged lack of support from the city and the political leaders there is not something popular.  Additionally, regardless of popularity, it is not the only alleged cause for the shortage in the city. 

The pandemic is also partially to blame for the shortage as there are several hundred officers and staff of the Seattle Police Department who are unwilling to either get the COVID vaccine or at least report that they have received it. 

The President of the Seattle Police Officers Guild, Mike Solan, addressed this issue as well as the defunding the police movement by saying:

“The defunding narrative and the lack of political support has led hundreds of police officers to leave this city.  We’re already at a staffing crisis and then the mayor decides it’s a good idea to enact a mandate.  And now since that mandate, we have 100 more officers not working the street.”

Regardless of what the cause of the shortage of personnel is, the reality is that the agency is severely understaffed.  This is noted by Durkin’s office which advised that over 250 officers have left the police agency in the last two years.  A result of those officers leaving and not being replaced is reducing the department’s capacity by over 300,000 service hours.

Durkan claims that her move to offer these incentives is to put more officers back on the street and only comes after the Seattle City Council refused to enact her proposed ordinance in July of this year.  That ordinance would have restored funding to the Seattle Police Department and reinstated 2019 council-approved hiring incentives. 

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They defunded the police in Philly. Morale hit an all-time low. Now they can’t even get 911 dispatchers.

PHILADELPHIA, PA – Calling 9-1-1 in the City of Brotherly Love may not have the intended effects.

Combining a staffing shortage with a significant increase in calls never creates an optimal situation in a dispatch center. Philadelphia residents are starting to feel the crunch and confidence in the system is waning. 

Georgeanne Huff-Labovitz, owner of Marie Huff’s hair salon, had a customer with a medical emergency. So, they called 9-1-1. 

“I called 9-1-1 and it was about 25 rings and I’m thinking, ‘What is going on?’” she told the local ABC affiliate. “It’s very scary, it’s a life or death situation. 911 should be there when we call.”

The 86-year old woman, with a know heart condition, continued to have dizzy spells. 

“This was very scary for us, so I dialed 9-1-1 again and again. About 25 times it rang. Now what do I do?” said Huff-Labovitz.

They tried calling several times, but the calls went unanswered. Finally, they got through after 20 minutes of dialing and waiting for an answer.

Dispatchers were finally able to get firefighters, and then paramedics, on the scene. 

Earlier this week, according to ABC6, a local woman made several attempts to call 9-1-1 as her ex-boyfriend attempted to illegally enter her home.

He kicked and screamed at the door for several minutes before knocking the door off its hinges. Another man inside the residence was armed and opened fire, killing the intruder prior to officers arriving on the scene.

Police say they are aware of the delays. 

Officials have said that they are working diligently to address the shortages. They have graduated new classes of dispatchers and have adjusted the schedules to bring more to the call center during peak call times. 

The general public, however, aren’t the only ones taking notice and asking questions. 

City Councilwoman Cindy Bass says that she is noticing more and more conversation around the shortage. 

“They’re not calling 9-1-1 just to chit chat, they’re calling because there’s an emergency,” she said.

Given the shortage of roughly 100 dispatchers, the city is falling well short of meeting the staffing demand. They currently only have 30 people in training. 

“And they just hired all these 911 operators, I don’t understand, we pay a lot of taxes here,” added Huff-Labovitz.

Councilwoman Bass believes that this raises even more questions. 

“What is happening? What is taking so long? How are we going to correct this and make sure the people in the city feel safe? Because right now, they are concerned and they are rightfully concerned,” Bass said.

According to billypenn.com, there is a reason for the staff shortages. 

“Absences are driven by burnout, COVID-fuelled [sic] illness, and sky-high turnover, according to nearly a dozen current and former dispatchers who spoke with Billy Penn, as well as other officials with knowledge of the situation.

Until recently, supervisors were mandating overtime for dispatchers seven days a week, department officials confirmed.

‘A lot of people are burnt out,’ said Darnell Davis, union representative for Local 1637 of District Council 33, which represents civilian communications in the police department.

‘They’re the first responders, and they’re getting a lot [of pressure] from management to come to work and work through the COVID, and they have.’

This is not a new problem within the Philadelphia dispatch radio room. We wrote about this issue back in July. Keep reading for more on the original coverage. 

Police are reminding the public that if you need non-emergency assistance, call 3-1-1. But, in the event of needing to call 9-1-1, do  not hang up and call back. Doing so puts your call at the end of the queue, as call are routed to be answered in the order that they came in. 

Meanwhile, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw is acknowledging a problem with morale.

WHYY reports the the low level of esprit de corps is “due to an extraordinary number of stressors impacting officers in a compressed amount of time.”

Some of the stressors pointed to include the pandemic, which has led to the death of five officers from the PDP, another officer being shot and killed in the line of duty, civil unrest that has been occurring since the death of George Floyd, and the “defund”  movement making its rounds across the country.

“We’ve been through a lot in these last couple of years. A lot,” said Outlaw during a press conference this past week. “We don’t expect our staff to be robots.

We want them to have venues in which they can express what they’re experiencing. We value their well-being.

How do we figure out what our roles are when our narratives are vacillating between: ‘We want more cops,’ ‘No we don’t,’ ‘Defund,’ and, ‘By the way, we want you to do these additional things but we don’t believe it’s OK to give you resources to do it.’ It was a lot of counter-intuitive, conflicting narratives happening all at once with us caught in the middle of that.”

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