Why did it take SPD so long to respond to Target rampage?
Why did it take Seattle police officers so long to respond to a rampage in a Target store downtown last month?
Surveillance video shows on Aug. 17 a 41-year-old man terrorizing employees, knocking over display cases, grabbing electronics, and throwing stuff down the escalator. KIRO 7 reports police were called, but didn’t show up for the 15 minute tirade. The man wasn’t arrested until later that day in West Seattle for car prowling.
The man was held for less than a day in jail before being released. After that, he repeated his menacing thefts at the downtown Target twice more before police arrested him. The Seattle Police Department says it is investigating response time.
An officer, who wishes to remain anonymous, told KIRO Radio’s Don O’Neill, “Would you believe that on any given day between the hours of 3 a.m. and noon, you may only have between eight and 10 police officers on duty in the West Precinct.”
The West Precinct covers downtown Seattle, Queen Anne, South Lake Union, Interbay, and Magnolia.
It’s not the first time an anonymous officer has made such claims about Seattle’s police staffing. The Jason Rantz Show has received such reports indicating many cops are leaving town to other departments due to a combination of factors: tense relations with city leadership, and lingering union contract negotiations. One officer called it a “mass exodus.” Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best has acknowledged this staffing problem. She feels a recent tentative agreement between the city and the police union will go a long way toward recruiting new officers and retaining current ones.
Despite the larger staffing issue, Seattle Sgt. Sean Whitcomb said that the SPD has a “minimum staffing” protocol, where the department will do what it needs to, including paying officers overtime, to make sure there are enough officers on patrol. Whitcomb acknowledged staffing is always a challenge, but said, “There are minimum staffing requirements that must be met.” Whether or not that minimum staffing is enough is another issue.
Whitcomb pointed out that if a call is high priority, officers from other departments and precincts will arrive on scene.
The unnamed officer said “we are extremely understaffed,” especially for patrol officers. They said those patrol officers are now on the city’s Navigation Team.
Whitcomb said the Navigation Team is made up of officers all over the city and those numbers don’t go against minimum staffing.