A highly-anticipated Seattle police staffing study recommends more officers on city streets.
What has become known as the “Berkshire Report,” prepared by Berkshire Advisors, Inc., was released to the media and to the Seattle Police Officer’s Guild. The final report is 136 pages and requires a calculator to fully understand its jargon. The previous draft of the report ranged up to 215 pages.
The police guild’s president, Ron Smith, has long alleged the report would state the city requires nearly 350 more police officers to adequately staff the force. The final report, and supporting statements, aim to squash those allegations.
In a letter accompanying the document, Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole addresses previous rumors surrounding the report. Her statement essentially says that the numbers have been misunderstood and taken out of context. O’Toole points to how the report didn’t initially take into account that the department only counts its added officers after attrition. That was one of a few changes between drafts and the final report.
There have been some media reports that Berkshire recommended the addition of 350 officers, which is inaccurate. The confusion is based on early drafts of the report where Berkshire recommended adding 65 vacant position to ensure seamless hiring. These were never meant to be additional officers, but merely placeholders. After further discussion with Berkshire, they recognized that these placeholders are not necessary under our current hiring system (we typically hire in advance of attrition) and therefore they were removed. Therefore, the reported 350 number (actually 343) from an earlier draft of the Berkshire report was based on the following: 171.5 actual officers, 107 overtime FTEs, and 65.2 vacant positions. At no time did Berkshire recommend hiring 343 officers.
Mayor Ed Murray released a statement about the report shortly after it was released.
“This report confirms what we have known for some time: that we need more officers on the street engaged in proactive policing to protect our neighborhoods,” Murray said.
“In my State of the City address, I noted that we have already added 50 additional officers to the department since 2014 and we are on track to add 100 officers by the end of 2017,” he said. “I said in February, and I continue to believe today, that we must hire at least 200 new officers over 2013 staffing levels if we are to meet the demands of our growing city.
The report, however, only addresses staffing levels in 2015, as O’Toole notes in a cover letter. Murray has stated that he is committed to adding 200 more officers over the 2013 staffing levels, which O’Toole points out is a low-point for police staffing in Seattle.
Whether or not Seattle’s plan to hire 200 more officers than in 2013 will satisfy the staffing recommendations based on 2015 numbers remains a question.
The report also doesn’t take into account all officers employed by the Seattle Police Department. Traffic officers, for example, are not included.
Mayor Murray was not available for comment following the release of his statement.