Seattle police staffing now at lowest level since 1991 amid spiking crime

The mass exodus of officers has continued since the City Council began defunding the department in 2020 in response to the BLM and Antifa riots.

Ari Hoffman Seattle WA
The Seattle Police Department (SPD) has lost so many officers that it has dropped to staffing levels not seen since 1991, amid spiking crime.

A copy of the mayor’s 2024 budget proposal obtained by KOMO News stated, “The city’s police staffing crisis, now in its third year, has resulted in only 937 police officers available for deployment in the city as of August 31, 2023, the lowest number of in-service officers since 1991 and significantly below per-capita staffing relative to similarly situated jurisdictions.”

Yet since the 1990s, the city has grown by approximately 200,000 people, according to the US Census Bureau, leaving the Emerald City with only 1.3 officers per 1,000 residents.

The FBI recommends the average officer-to-resident ratio for cities similar in size to Seattle as 2.6 per 1,000 residents. Though other similar-sized cities such as Denver (1.9 officers per 1,000 residents), Phoenix (1.6 officers per 1,000 residents) and San Francisco (2.2 officers per 1,000 residents) also failed to meet the threshold, few were as far behind as Seattle.

Despite recent hiring incentives, the mass exodus of officers has continued since the City Council began defunding the department in 2020 in response to the BLM and Antifa riots that rocked Seattle in the wake of the death of George Floyd. Nearly 600 officers have fled the department since 2023.

Though the council has mostly backtracked on defunding the police, the departures continued in 2023 with 78 officers separating from the department but only 49 were hired so far this year.

According to Seattle Police Officer Guild president Mike Solan, Seattle has seen more homicides than hired officers.

Meanwhile, Seattle Democrat Mayor Bruce Harrell’s promised officer/recruitment plan has yet to get off the ground, despite the continued increase in crime. In September, Seattle blew past 2022’s total number of homicides, which has increased 7 percent in the first half of 2023, on track to beat the all-time high of homicides. 

At the same time, major retailers continue to shutter in the city, drawing comparisons to crime-ridden San Francisco.
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