Already defunded Seattle Police facing losing nearly 300 cops – or more than 1/4 of their force – this month alone

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SEATTLE, WA – According to reports, the Seattle Police Department could lose as much as 27% of their sworn officers by mid-October due to the city’s mandate that state employees and healthcare workers be fully vaccinated by October 18th.

Back in August, Governor Jay Inslee announced a vaccination mandate that would require most state employees and healthcare workers to be fully vaccinated by October 18th.

Said mandate by Governor Inslee was also adopted in King County and the city of Seattle, which has set the stage for the current debacle regarding the potential loss of as many as 292 sworn officers for the Seattle Police Department.

In order for employees to be considered fully vaccinated by October 18th, those employees would’ve had to have received either their final dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine by October 4th.

According to an update from the Seattle Police Department as of October 6th, 292 sworn officers have yet to provide proof of their vaccination status.

While officers are able to apply for various exemptions regarding the vaccine mandate, be they religious or medical reasons, it’s unclear what percent – in any – are among those 292 officers that have yet to provide proof of their vaccination status.

Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz sent out a letter to staff on October 1st regarding the impending vaccination deadline, acknowledging that staffing issues could arise if the deadline isn’t met:

“I am asking anyone who has not submitted this information to please get it done. In preparation for the City Vaccination mandate, SPD has constructed various staffing plans for how we continue to ensure continuity of emergency and legally-mandated services. In order to have the least amount of disruptions to our personnel we need to know how many individuals are cleared, under city vaccination rules.

At the moment – we have to assume we have hundreds of unvaccinated individuals based on the information submitted. This could create a disruption to unit of assignments.”

Back in August, we at Law Enforcement Today reported on how lengthy police response times were in Seattle in the wake of concerning attrition numbers the Seattle Police Department experienced reportedly stemming from anti-police protests and riots throughout 2020.

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Here’s our previous report from this past August detailing the difficulties Seattle Police are already dealing with due to their already-depleted force.

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Welcome to police-defunded Seattle, where cop response times exceed 60 minutes for certain calls

(Originally published August 11th, 2021)

SEATTLE, WA – According to reports, Seattle Police’s response times for certain calls are exceeding 60 minutes, a result that officials say is directly tied to the ongoing staffing crisis that the Seattle Police Department is experiencing.

During the Seattle City Council Public Safety Committee meeting held on August 10th, the issues revolving around police response times and staffing shortages for the department were brought up while discussing the SPD Quarterly Finance and Staffing Report.

Back in May, reports noted that the Seattle Police Department lost nearly 20% of their police force, with approximately 260 officers leaving the department – which much of that attrition was credited toward the intense anti-police protests and police reforms enacted in Washington.

Councilmember Alex Pedersen commented during the August 10th city council meeting that this is overall “concerning”:

“This attrition is concerning and when we look at 911 response times as well.”

Dr. Antonio Oftelie, a Court Monitor of Seattle Police, warns that the current staffing levels within the Seattle Police Department runs the risk of the agency not being able to adhere to a federal judge’s imposed consent decree that called for reforms like community policing:

“What we can’t do is starve the organization so much, you cannot do community policing. SPD is stuck right now where they are only doing responding to crisis and they don’t have the people and resources to do true community policing.”

Council member Teresa Mosqueda inferred that Seattle Police’s staffing crisis and response times problem is mostly the fault of Seattle Police, noting that “the council fully funded the hiring plan as proposed by the mayor’s office.”

Yet, a spokesperson for Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office funds that the attrition rate within Seattle Police is more heavily tied to the rhetoric coming from the city council, highlighting how the council has pushed for a 50% reduction in police officers in Seattle:

“Over the past year, the City Council has advocated for cutting 50 percent of officers, threatened out of order layoffs, and cut the salary of former Chief Carmen Best and her leadership staff. The City Council continues to hold millions of dollars of department budget hostage and has yet to act on the Mayor and SPD’s comprehensive budget proposal.”

“If the Council President now cares about recruitment and retention at the Seattle Police Department, she should look at departing officers’ exit memos who note lack of support from City Council as a key reason for job dissatisfaction and separation then vote to immediately to support the Mayor and SPD’s proposal regarding hiring and retention.”

“Publicly promising to fire 50 percent of your workforce is a failed retention strategy, which is why Mayor Durkan, former Chief Best, and Interim Chief Diaz have warned City Council against layoffs and blunt cuts.”

Christopher Fisher, Seattle Police’s Strategic Initiatives Director, said that internal polling from the department shows that even active officers wouldn’t recommend to their own family members to come work at the department:

“On a scale of negative 100 to positive 100, how would you endorse a family member coming to work where you work? SPD’s is negative 50. Which is bad.”

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We at Law Enforcement Today previous reported on the matter of police response times in Seattle in the wake of the 2020 riots back in March. 

Here’s that previous report. 

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SEATTLE, WA – Police response times have been reportedly rising in Seattle, which the city’s mayor says that officers leaving the force in large numbers is heavily contributing to the problem. 

On March 9th, the Seattle Police Department released new details regarding call response times, and the response time data released is concerning. 

Currently, “Priority 1” calls – which consist of things like reported shootings or active robberies – have a response time goal of seven minutes or less.

“Priority 2” calls, such as someone calling in to report an assault that is no longer actively taking place, are getting responded to within 15 minutes. 

However, the Seattle Police haven’t been able to meet these response time goals since May of 2020. In June of 2020, response times for “Priority 1” averaged over eight minutes and “Priority 2” calls reached nearly 24 minutes in both June and August.

Furthermore, there were 221 days in 2020 where officers based out of one of the SPD precincts couldn’t even respond to lower-priority calls.

This all just so happens to be occurring at the same time that the City Council is actively trying to cut $5.4 million from the Seattle Police budget. 

Mayor Jenny Durkan is pointing to officers leaving the Seattle Police Department at seemingly unprecedented rates as being one of the causes behind elongated response times to emergency calls.

Durkan said: 

“Seven minutes is a long time when you need somebody right now. And the more officers we lose, the more that number will go up.”

For the sake of perspective, the SPD had a departure rate of about 56 officers per year for the past two decades. 

Yet in 2020, the number of officers who left the SPD was 186 – over three times the off of a typical year. Even when accounting for the number of officers hired recently – which was 51 – that still puts the department at a net loss of 135 officers. 

In an unsurprising revelation, many of the exit interviews for the officers that departed in 2020 showed that they’d partly decided to separate from the department due to the City Council’s vitriolic agenda against policing in the wake of George Floyd’s death. 

But the City Council is still pushing to see millions pulled from the police budget in 2021, an effort that Mayor Durkan says is poorly timed, considering the current debacle revolving around police response times: 

“I think it’s the wrong time to make a cut right now, and I hope the council slows down and rethinks their approach.”

It’s hardly a shocking cause-and-effect scenario, in that when police resources in the form of both monetary and officer retention efforts get depleted, among the consequences will be slower response time to emergency calls. 

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