SEATTLE — The Seattle Police Department has said that more than 200 officers left their jobs since last year, citing an anti-police climate in Seattle, City Council policies and disagreements with department leadership.
Police Chief Adrian Diaz said Tuesday that the department is in a “staffing crisis” after more than 180 police officers quit last year and another 66 officers left their jobs so far this year, according to police data.
“We are at record lows in the city right now. I have about 1,080 deployable officers. This is the lowest I’ve seen our department,” Diaz told KING-TV.
Exit interviews with departing officers revealed that some retired early, while others left for policing jobs in different cities or private sector jobs.
Activists have applauded the reductions and called for additional city police department cuts following nationwide protests over police brutality and excessive use of force targeting people of color.
“Despite an increased focus on recruitment and retention, the Seattle Police Department continues to lose sworn officers at a record pace due to ongoing budget uncertainty,” the office of Mayor Jenny Durkan said in a statement. “Based on exit interviews, we know the Council’s threats of continued layoffs or cuts are having a direct impact on decisions to leave the department.”
The City Council is considering new cuts of $5.4 million to the police department’s budget. But Durkan is cautioning against additional cuts without addressing hiring and retention of officers.
Councilmember Lisa Herbold, chair of the Public Safety and Human Services Committee, said Tuesday that the council has fully funded the police department’s hiring plan for 2021, including money to hire 114 non-sworn employees who work to address public safety issues officers.
Herbold said she has proposed a bill supporting the investments and others requested by the department, the city auditor and the city’s inspector general.
“The reductions being considered are from salary savings from officers leaving and do not reduce the number of officers SPD can hire,” Herbold said.
Diaz said the police department is hiring more community service and crime prevention officers to handle non-criminal calls, but that he remains concerned additional front-line officers are leaving the department.
“I’m hoping that it starts to level off,” Diaz said. “I do see that this year we could have a significant amount of people leaving.”