EXCLUSIVE: Seattle has more homicides than new police hires in 2023

"I don't want to be the next San Francisco. I don't want to be the next Portland. We can't absorb any more losses in the police department."

Ari Hoffman Seattle WA
On Thursday, Seattle recorded its 57th homicide of 2023, tying the record high from 2022 with four months still remaining in the year. It has also been revealed that 669 officers have resigned from the Seattle Police Department since 2019, the bulk of which left following the city council voting to defund the department in 2020.

The president of the Seattle Police Officers Guild, Mike Solan told The Ari Hoffman Show on Talk Radio 570 KVI, "This year alone, we've got more homicide numbers, as tragic as that is, than we do police recruits."

"So we've had more people die in the city of Seattle than we've had police hires in the year of 2023...it's horrifying."

According to the union, the total number of deployable officers is now less than 900, resulting in a staffing crisis they say is primarily driven by the hostility public officials direct at officers. One council member previously proposed laying off officers based on the color of their skin.

Officers began leaving the department after a 2017 ordinance overhauled the city’s police accountability system, creating a new oversight system comprised of the Office of Police Accountability, the Office of Inspector General for Public Safety (OIG), and the Community Police Commission (CPC). The force has been stretched so thin that it came up short in the number of officers needed for major event weekends.

Officers left for other cities that don’t have these policies and after working without a contract for years at a time. 92 officers resigned in 2019 and by 2020; the number had grown to 186. The major exodus began after the city council voted to defund the department in response to the BLM and Antifa riots that rocked the city in 2020.

According to SPD, 61 officers have resigned in 2023 as of June, resulting in only 875 deployable officers in the department. Cities of similar size such as Boston have 2,144 sworn officers in its police department.

As officers have left, crime in the Emerald City has spiked. The city is on track to eclipse its record high of homicides set in 1994.

Solan told Hoffman, "People need to really understand... we don't have enough staff to effectively answer 911 calls in the manner that we should... We don't have enough staff to properly investigate detective work post 911 calls that develop into some kind of case against a suspect and or advocate for a victim. This is the reality."

Former Seattle Police Lieutenant Jessica Taylor wrote in a recent resignation letter that "SPD is dangerously understaffed, and the officers and their families are suffering. The hours are ruthlessly long, and due to the staffing crisis (created by you, the mayor, and the council), these unsafe conditions are entirely unacceptable. Completely. They have also been working for years without a contract — also unacceptable."

Once again, officers are working without a contract as the current agreement expired in December 2020, which is hurting recruiting efforts. Additionally, recruiting efforts promised by Democratic Mayor Bruce Harrell have fallen flat or not even begun.

On Wednesday, a federal judge ruled to terminate the majority of the consent decree. District Court Judge James L. Robart ruled that officer accountability and police crowd control tactics will still need federal oversight, which will leave the consent decree in place but at a partial capacity.

Robart said he was proud of the progress made by the department in implementing a more constitutional form of policing. In a March court filing, the city and the Department of Justice DOJ agreed, stating SPD had made "far-reaching reforms" and has "achieved remarkable progress" since the institution of the consent decree and is now a "transformed organization."

According to the filing, "Any pattern or practice of unconstitutional force that existed has been eliminated."

Solan added, "...anybody that voted for defunding needs, and that's running for re-election, the community that votes need to really take a hard look at what the defunding movement did to Seattle."

"I don't want to be the next San Francisco. I don't want to be the next Portland. We can't absorb any more losses in the police department."
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