Seattle city council rejects proposed plan to recruit and retain police officers as violence explodes

SEATTLE, WA- On Monday, September 13th, the Seattle City Council voted no on a proposed plan to devote more money to retain officers on the payroll while hiring new ones. 

This controversial decision comes as the city continues to struggle with crime and redefining the role of armed police officers. The council reportedly rejected two plan proposing at least $1 million to officers, one by a close vote. 

In the last 18 months, between resignations and new hires, the Seattle Police Department (SPD) lost 200 officers. 

On Monday, September 13th, councilmember Alex Pederson proposed using $1 million to $3 million of the $15 million in salary savings on bonuses to recruit and retain officers to fight rising crime. He said in a statement:

“To demonstrate and recognize this staffing crisis caused by the tidal wave of attrition and that we want our remaining officers and detectives to stay in Seattle.”

Protests to defund the police department put pressure on the council to shrink the size of the police force and put money into social service solutions. During public comment, citizen Katherine Dawson said:

“The majority of this council pledged to defund SPD, a promise that still remains unfulfilled.”

In a statement before the city council meeting, Mayor Jenny Durkan urged support for the hiring and retention plan. She said:

“It’s a false choice to invest in alternatives or hire and retain officers to meet our current 911 response. We have shown we can invest tens of millions in new alternatives.”

Councilmember Andrew Lewis stated his concerns about the proposal, saying:

“When I disagree with this, it’s the reprioritization of the money component of this amendment. The money earmarked for critical crime prevention programs in the human services department.”

Minutes later, Lewis voted yes for a separate, less expensive plan to recruit and retain officers. A majority of council members rejected that plan by a 5-4 vote in the belief that the money should be devoted to alternatives to policing.

Some activists said the council’s actions fall short of what the city needs now. SPD African American Community Advisory Chair Victoria Beach said in a statement:

“We won’t have a department. You think things are bad now? Just wait.”

When Beach said she heard gunshots in her neighborhood over the weekend, she did not bother calling police. She added:

“I just thought, ‘mmmm, I’m not going to call because it’s going on everywhere and I don’t want to get upset when they don’t show up.’”

With more than 250 officers who have already left SPD, Beach said she was hoping the council would do more to keep and hire officers now. According to reports, with so many officers gone, the city has banked $15 million in salary savings so far this year. 

The majority of the council said they did not want to use the $3 million in savings as incentives for officers to not leave. Instead, the council will use the money on internal SPD programs, community safety investments, and the new ‘Triage One’ pilot starting in 2022, where other responders are sent to distress calls instead of police. Beach said:

“Yes, still hold them accountable, but we need officers to hold accountable. We don’t have any. it’s a free-for-all here in Seattle. You can commit a crime and get away with it. We need police officers.”

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Seattle police chief: Gun violence is skyrocketing, we’re down hundreds of cops and the city is screwed

September 1st, 2021

SEATTLE, WA- On Tuesday, August 31st, gun violence was the main topic of a media conference, as shootings in recent weeks have skyrocketed in Seattle.

According to reports, interim Police Chief Adrian Diaz said that the violence is happening while staffing at the department is short hundreds of officers he believes the city needs.

While the city is pumping millions into programs meant to build community trust and construct new policing alternatives, Diaz said that the city also needs to invest more to keep the remaining officers on the beat and attract new hires.

Shootings across Seattle have increased, already surpassing the numbers the Seattle Police Department (SPD) reported happening in 2020. Diaz said officers are pulling scores of firearms off the street while record-breaking attrition means 300 officers are no longer working at the department. He added:

“If the department was not in the midst of a staffing crisis, I’d have highly visible officers in neighborhoods suffering this violence.”

Diaz reportedly wants city council to fund 1,400 additional officers, adding that community members also must play a stronger role with the city’s policing. He said:

“We need people to call 911 when they hear gunshots, we need people to talk to detectives when they know who has a gun or who is shooting at each other and identify suspects.”

August alone has shown a streak of violence across the city. Just within the first week of the month, the department investigated three people being shot.

In the second week of the month, a child was injured and another person was fatally shot. The third week included an armed robbery, a drive-by and a road rage shooting. Separate incidents left 10 people injured by gunfire and another was killed. 

On the last Sunday of the month, in separate incidents, two more people were shot and killed. Investigators said an attempted robbery on Capitol Hill was thwarted by an armed stranger. A second shooting during the afternoon left a woman with a gunshot wound to the stomach.

The department’s crime dashboard reveals that nearly every month in 2021 has seen an increase in reports of shots fired as well as non-fatal and fatal shootings across the city.

As of this writing, there are nearly 130 more reports over all of last year.

The dashboard shows gun violence left 99 people injured and another 23 people were killed. During the news conference, Diaz offered conflicting data, stating that so far this year, 104 separate shooting incidents resulted in 135 victims to date.

Of the 35 homicides landing on SPD’s detectives’ desks this year, Diaz said that 78 percent are the direct result of gun violence.

He added:

“We’re better than this. This community came together during the pandemic and it’s going to take an even greater community effort to push back against the violence.”

Councilmember Lisa Herbold stated that an amendment to the proposed budget by councilmember Teresa Mosqueda would fund community service officers and crime prevention coordinators, plus invest in community violence intervention programs and more. 

Reportedly, Mayor Jenny Durkan said that her budget proposal offers cash incentives for new hires, but a city council committee is not on board so far.

Plus, the city’s new director of the ‘safe and thriving communities division’ claims that monies already shifted from SPD’s budget now flowing into community-based organizations are seeing “some success”. Rex Brown, from the city’s Safe and Thriving Communities Division, stated:

“Right now the community is asking for problems to be solved in an effective way. Your deliberate speed is yielding some of those promising outcomes and we’ll see more of that.”

As of this writing, City Council is on recess, but when it reconvenes they’ll consider the mid-year budget and determine how much money goes into SPD recruitment and retention and more.

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Seattle city council defunded the police. Now they’re trying to blame cops for manpower shortages, rising crime.

August 12th, 2021

SEATTLE, WA – The president of Seattle City Council is trying to distance herself from her previous support for defunding the Seattle police department, and is now blaming the police for manpower shortages and rising crime.

Council President Lorena Gonzalez is running for Mayor of Seattle and primaries opened last week.

Voters in the city are deciding between 15 candidates, and the riots and protests of the past year and one-half are fresh in their minds.

The primaries will decide which two candidates will face off in November during the general election.

Apparently feeling the heat from voters weary of CHOP and CHAZ autonomous zones and businesses being set ablaze, Gonzalez tried to re-write history during a Tuesday morning council meeting.

 During the Public Safety and Human Services Committee meeting, Gonzalez blamed the city’s exodus of police officers on police management, and not the liberal policies and calls to defund the police championed by Gonzalez.

During the meeting, members reviewed a quarterly staff report showing that the department lost about 300 officers this year, as they fled the city for more appreciative and reliable employment with other areas.

Because of staff departures, the police department is facing the lowest deployable staff since the 1980s as crime skyrockets.

Gonzales said that retention was her main focus and that SPD management was to blame:

“I am focusing in on retention, which is where I see the issue. I think these numbers tell a story about how SPD has significant room for improvement.

“Management of SPD has significant room for improvement for retaining the new officers and existing officers that have been hired or that have continued to be an officer at SPD.”

SPD Executive Director of Strategic Initiatives Dr. Chris Fisher became emotional as he countered her negative and false comments. He pointed to a test used to gauge perceptions of the workforce which found the perception scores were “abysmal”:

“It’s basically what percentage on a scale of negative 100 to positive 100, how strongly would you endorse a friend or family member coming to work where you work.

“SPD’s is negative 50, which is bad.”

Fisher held back tears as he spoke of the lack of support officers have received from the city council over the past year:

“Sorry, I’m getting a little emotional because a lot of these people I’ve built relationships with, and I know how much it hurt them. I’m not out there on the front lines getting yelled at, it’s a place of privilege I have to sit in an office, but I know how much it hurt them to feel that they were, especially younger ones, being told they might get laid off. I think that was a message that maybe this wasn’t the place to be a police officer.

“So many of these folks came to serve and to help their community, and I think they just want to feel that people see that.”

Fisher then listed some steps the city could take to improve morale, but Gonzales did not want to hear the suggestions, wanting to again attempt to turn blame away from herself:

“So, I didn’t hear an answer to my question, and I’m really disappointed about that. What I heard is a lot of language, again, on the hiring side, and I’m not interested in politics, I’m interested in actual policy solutions, because that’s my job.

“So, I would like to get an understanding from command staff what specific things, strategies, investments, interventions, other recommendations are being advanced to address the reality of recruitment — I’m sorry, retention.”

Gonzales again pointed the blame at police management despite the study’s findings:

“We have fully funded y’all to do the hiring that you need to do. And where I am seeing that there continues to be a significant concern – and I think this is on management – is how do we retain officers that we have spent time hiring that the department is funded and green lit to be able to move forward with those hiring processes.”

The city council moved to defund the police department during the riots and protests, imposing salary and budget restrictions that handcuffed the department and led to the resignation of Police Chief Carmen Best.

By the end of 2020, the council had reduced the department’s budget by $69 million. And 186 officers opted to leave the department, more than double the departures expected. Combined with a hiring freeze, this meant 298,000 fewer police service hours.

A January 25 police department memo warned:

“The department and City cannot hire its way out of a police staffing shortage of this magnitude, and the remaining officers cannot be expected to completely fill this gap on overtime at the expense of employee wellness.”

The defunding attempts by the city council became so extreme that a federal judge had to intervene in February. U.S. District Judge James Robart warned that strong court action is possible if the council continued “defunding” actions that short the city’s need for safety.

An 8-year-old consent decree, a pact between the city and the U.S. Department of Justice, gives federal courts power over the city to ensure that the police department remains functional. Judge Robart said:

“You can’t simply charge off in a direction without knowing what the consequences are, and having in place plans to replace essential services currently being provided by the police. If you do that, then you start to violate provisions in the court’s consent decree.”

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

August 11, 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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Author: Jenna Curren


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