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

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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,

Durkan said: 

“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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In another twist of irony related to the topic of police defunding in Seattle, one of the very councilmembers who voted in favor of having police budgets cut had the audacity to criticize police for not properly addressing homeless encampments recently. 

We at Law Enforcement Today reported on said matter back in February. 

Here’s that previous report. 

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SEATTLE, WA- Seattle City Councilmember Andrew Lewis is blaming the Seattle Police Department (SPD) for their lack of attention in handling the city’s exploding homeless problem, however he specifically voted to block SPD from handling those exact issues. 

After three recent raids in tent communities where the police confiscated many drugs and weapons, leading to more than a dozen people being arrested, Lewis tried to point his finger at SPD and Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan when he was asked about long-term solutions to homelessness taking over Pioneer Square.

According to reports, long before the raids dismantled the criminal enterprise hiding under some of the tents, at least three business owners trying to stay afloat in the area said they have been begging the city to intervene for months, but nothing has been done.

Pioneer Square business owner Laura Zeck said:

“Homelessness can happen to anybody; the additional criminal element makes it completely out of hand.”

She added:

“I’m looking around for other spaces.”

Main Street Gyros owner Hamza Albadan said:

“I think we got to be out of business soon.”

Gallery Frames owner Daniel Carrillo added:

“I’m thinking about it right now, but I have a lease.”

All three business owners said that the cycle of crime associated with some of the tent communities makes them want to move out of Pioneer Square.

Carrillo said:

“I guarantee you in a couple of weeks time there will be more tents.”

When the Q13 Fox News asked Lewis about what, if any, long-term solutions the city has in response to address the problem, he claimed that the failure was on the part of the SPD and Mayor Durkan.

He said in a statement:

“You will have to talk to the police department or the mayor on what the long-term strategy is going to be in that corridor.”

He also said that he would like to see the “Just Care” program renewed and expanded. It is a new program that was aimed to reach out to the homeless and provide them with wrap around services.

However, according to SPD spokesperson Sergeant Randy Huserik, Lewis is more responsible for the current state of Pioneer Square than he is letting on.

Huserik said in a statement:

“For him to turn around and put that back on the Seattle Police Department is a little puzzling. It’s a little puzzling based on the fact that he was one of the people who voted to abolish and defund the Navigation Team.”

Reportedly, the Navigation Team would pair police and social workers together to engage with the homeless population as a path to wrap-around services.

According to the city’s website, SPD personnel and outreach workers would connect the homeless with resources and housing opportunities. 

Back in 2017, the city wrote:

“This team has advanced certification in crisis intervention and de-escalation techniques that lend themselves to the daunting tasks of reaching those most in need. The purpose of the team’s approach is to bring more people inside and create faster resolutions to hazardous situations.”

Over the summer of 2020, the Seattle City Council opted to defund the Navigation Team unit in order to block police from working with homeless populations.

They claimed that they had planned to have other organizations handle those issues, but the Pioneer Square-area business owners said that has not been happening at all.

They said that they have not seen anyone working with the homeless in the encampments that are now blocking the sidewalks outside of their shops.

They want to know how tents are allowed to block sidewalks for such long periods of time and what department is supposed to be in charge of that issue.

Huserik said:

“Other city agencies are now incumbent on dealing with those issues. That’s still falling on encampment and homeless community, the city council expressed that they don’t want Seattle police to get involved.”

Given Lewis’ knowledge of the situation, it is unclear why he proceeded to blame the SPD and mayor for the growing problem. On Friday, February 26th, the mayor’s office followed up with a statement claiming the situation is complex.

The statement added:

“There’s no single department that makes the call for removals of tents or obstructions, rather the decision is made collectively.

Interdepartmental department teams meet regularly to assess the need to remove vacant tents, obstructions, litter, and public dumping. Requests come in from a number of different sources, including through the Customer Service Bureau and the Find it Fix it app.”

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