Rantz: Citing public safety, police unions slam Inslee coronavirus prisoner release

Apr 15, 2020, 9:16 PM | Updated: Apr 16, 2020, 7:30 am
Seattle police, SPD, coronavirus, coronavirus prisoner...
British Columbia Emergency Photograph, Flickr Creative Commons

Two local police unions condemned Gov. Jay Inslee’s coronavirus prisoner release plan, citing public safety concerns. Inslee announced he’d allow for the early release of nearly 1,000 Washington criminals over fear that crowded jails could easily spread the coronavirus.

Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG) and King County Police Officers Guild reacted to the plan with a joint statement, saying these criminals “are behind bars for a reason.” They expressed concern “about the safety of our neighborhoods in these already difficult times” and wondered why they “had no detailed briefings” on the plan.

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Coronavirus prisoner release is dangerous

Many in the law enforcement community have raised concerns with the coronavirus prisoner release plan. The proposal was unveiled the day after prisoners at the Monroe Correctional Complex rioted over COVID-19 concerns. That doesn’t send a good message.

“We have firsthand interactions with these criminals on a daily basis. Why weren’t we consulted?” asked SPOG President Officer Mike Solan to the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH.

The coronavirus prisoner release plan comes as King County prohibits most misdemeanor bookings, which keeps even more criminals on the streets. Not only does that put the community at risk, but it makes an officer’s job more dangerous.

“And when a cop gets dispatched to investigate a crime, and when they make contact with the suspect, if they’re still around, and we try to arrest them when we realize they won’t be booked, let alone possibly not even charged, that is a significant public safety crisis, let alone the staffing crisis,” Officer Solan notes. “All of these things are compounding. And when you release more people who are convicts into the public safety realm into our communities, to me, that exacerbates the situation. And then we’re constantly playing catch-up.”

And more concerning is the SPD is already dealing with a staffing problem that pre-existed before coronavirus. With more criminals released onto the streets, the city has already seen an alarming increase in burglaries. The west precinct saw a whopping 87% increase in burglaries.

“Recruiting and retention is in a real significant crisis level in this city,” Officer Solan explained.

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Rantz: Citing public safety, police unions slam Inslee coronavirus prisoner release