As the City Council Public Safety Committee discussed the Seattle Police Department Quarterly Finance and Staffing Report Tuesday, it was revealed that response times for crimes called in to 911 can take longer than 60 minutes.
Officials warned that this would happen as the council continued to defund and demonize the police causing an exodus of nearly 300 officers this year alone.
In October 2020, Seattle Interim Police Chief Adrian Diaz warned that he did not believe the amount of deployable officers Seattle has was safe for the public.
"No. Even when I was pushing out our budget for next year with the city council, I was explaining the need for us to have people that are going through the academy, that are going through our FTO [Field Training Officer] phase, and then being able to deploy them out," he said.
The council took no action after Diaz's warning and continued to work towards defunding the police. Council has instead looked at the departure of officers as a bonus "savings" and planned to allocate the over $15 million to other budget items.
Council President and current mayoral candidate Lorena Gonzalez blamed the police for the staffing crisis, rather than the council’s defunding and demonization of police.
"When we hear about SPD's staffing issues and when SPD talks about staffing issues to the media, what we continue to hear is ringing of the alarm bells around hiring, and what we don't necessarily hear about is the recruitment aspects of SPD’s management responsibilities. And so, knowing that SPD's hiring plan is fully funded for 2021, I am not hearing a lot of strategies from SPD about the recruitment pieces of this conversation.
"And I think that is both unfortunate and a missed opportunity to have a conversation about recruitment. Because that's really where I'm seeing these numbers tell a story — is about how are we addressing things like current officer wellness and well-being, how are we addressing staffing issues, transfers from positions that are more favorable to positions that officers don't necessarily want to be doing, and addressing shift issues as well. I don't see anything in this presentation… about recruitment… retention strategies that address where I see the most significant concerns existing, which is around separations."
Last summer, following the deadly "autonomous zone" and during ongoing BLM and Antifa riots, Gonzalez co-sponsored a budget amendment to cut $800,000 from SPD's recruitment and retention budget.
Gonzalez's comments go against the words of officers themselves who overwhelmingly blamed the council for the mass exodus in exit interviews. Former Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best, even cited the council's defunding plan as the reason she quit SPD in the midst of ongoing riots and violence last summer.
During the meeting, Christopher Fisher, SPD Strategic Initiatives Director said that a question asked of officers was, "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."
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan who supported the defunding of the police has recently changed her tune after a dramatic uptick in violence following the SPD staffing crisis. She told KOMO News, "And I said it before, if you tell a group of employees that half of them are going to lose their job, it's not surprising that people would leave."
Council Member and Public Safety Chair Lisa Herbold, a longtime advocate for defunding the police, may be forced to change her position as recognition dawns that of threats to public safety caused by the loss of officers.
"Despite the point that council fully funded SPD’s 2021 staffing plan, it is self-evident that officers are leaving the department in unprecedented numbers," she said during a council meeting.