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16 Oct, 2020 19:55

Seattle police officers LEAVING department at ‘unprecedented’ rate amid budget calls and ongoing protests

Seattle police officers LEAVING department at ‘unprecedented’ rate amid budget calls and ongoing protests

At least 118 officers have left the Seattle Police Department (SPD) following mass Black Lives Matter protests and city budget cuts. It currently has around 1,200 officers on its force – the lowest number in a decade.

According to statistics from the mayor’s office, the month of September typically sees five to seven officers depart from the department, but this year a whopping 39 officers left, including three who were still in training. Other departures included officers who sought lateral moves to other departments or retired altogether. 

Making those numbers even more dire is the fact they don’t include another 14 officers who were using up permitted sick leave and vacation time ahead of a permanent exit. Most of those who have left have more than 25 years’ experience on the job. 

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“Your 911 call for help will go unanswered for a significant amount of time,” Seattle Police Officer Guild President Mike Solan told the Jason Rantz Show on radio station KTTH, when speaking about the effect of those losses on the department – and the public. 

Response times to 911 calls have, in fact, already been slowing as a result of officer numbers dwindling. Response times to priority-one calls – the most serious – are around nine minutes. That’s about two minutes longer than the time taken to respond to those same calls last year. 

“We are losing an unprecedented number of officers, which makes it even more critical that we recruit and retain officers committed to reform and community policing that reflects the diversity and values of our city,” Mayor Jenny Durkan said about the attrition rates. 

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The situation in the SPD is set against a backdrop of two occurrences: the ongoing protests against police brutality, and the city council having approved a budget cut in late September to its budget, with more cuts expected down the road. The initial cuts were part of what some members of the council called a “reimagining” of policing in the city in response to the demonstrations, and calls from activists to defund the police.  

Interim Police Chief Adrian Diaz said if the SPD is not allowed to replace the officers it has lost this year, he will have to “consider significant reductions in [the] service model, potentially impacting property crime investigations, harbor patrol, and some types of 911 responses.”

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