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Rantz: At least 118 Seattle police officers left department in mass exodus

In this Wednesday, July 15, 2020, file photo, Seattle Police officers walk past people holding signs during a rally in support of police and law enforcement officers, in front of City Hall in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

At least 118 Seattle police officers separated from the department, the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH has confirmed. In September alone, 39 officers left the force when the typical number for that month is between 5 and 7. Even new recruits are leaving.

There are now only about 1,200 officers in service for the entire city, the lowest it’s been in two decades. And even this number is misleading. Many officers are using their accrued sick time as they begin their escape to other agencies or wait for retirement.

The City of Seattle unveiled this officer separation data on Friday morning.

At the same time, a developing and alarming side note: the Seattle Police Department withheld staffing numbers, ignoring a public disclosure request. Indeed, the SPD claimed a staffing issue was to blame. But that doesn’t appear to be true.

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At least 118 officers left the Seattle Police Department

At least 118 officers have separated from the force in 2020, with the bulk leaving after the Seattle City Council embraced radical activists pushing to defund the police. Separations are all-inclusive, including resignations (including lateral-moves to other agencies) and retirements.

While council members either stayed quiet as criminal activists attempted to murder police or defended death threats, officers gave their notice. Some went to other departments, others retired. The downward trend is expected to continue.

The mass exodus of officers started in May with 10 separations, followed by 16 in June, 10 in July, and 14 in August. In September, that number jumped to 39. So far in October, there have been eight separations according to a source, though this is not in the mayor’s report. Police Chief Carmen Best, who resigned this year, is included in the statistics.

Not all of these monthly numbers directly match a partial list of data circulated internally within the SPD or mayor’s office. They have, however, been confirmed by two police sources and match the total number of separations outlined in the mayor’s forthcoming report.

The majority of the resignations and retirements were patrol officers. As a result, service calls will not receive the attention they deserve.

“Your 911 call for help will go unanswered for a significant amount of time,” Seattle Police Officer Guild President Mike Solan told the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH.

Currently, due to low staff, the median priority 1 response times — that is, dangerous, in-progress crimes that demand immediate response — was an astounding nine minutes in the North Precinct from July through September, according to city documents.

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Things are worse than they seem

With just about 1,200 officers in service, Seattle is staffed at lower levels than they were in 1990. The population has increased by 44% since then. And crime is surging, with a reportedly 60% year-over-year increase in homicides.

The mayor’s office believes the number of deployable staff could drop to 1,072 officers if the trends and hiring freeze continues, along with the council’s vote to fire 70 officers.

But these numbers don’t tell the whole picture. Sources reveal that many officers are using sick time at higher than normal rates. Many of them are looking for other jobs in different agencies. When they leave, some officers fear the separations could hit 200.

And to put it in perspective: in 2018, when I broke the story of a then-mass exodus of officers, it was called “historically large” by the department. That number was 108 for the entire year. It coincided with the council’s ongoing attacks on police and working without a salary.

SPD was withholding staffing numbers

The Human Resources Department within SPD was not forthcoming with the staffing numbers. Indeed, it seems apparent that they purposefully withheld them.

In July, the Jason Rantz Show put in a public disclosure request for separation data from the previous two months. I make this request every month or so. This time, however, the SPD rejected the request.

The Public Disclosure Team within the SPD told me that “Your request seeks information or asks questions and does not identify specific public records. As such it is not a request for identifiable public records.”

My request for data used the near-exact phrasing submitted many times before. I’ve always received the data. After pushing back, the SPD responded saying they would, finally, send me the data, but I’d have to wait until October 7.

That date came and went, but they didn’t send the data. I followed-up asking why.

“I have reached out to SPD’s HR Department requesting a status update regarding the responsive data. I have not received a response to date,” the analyst said. They also said “This data to date, has not been compiled.”

I assumed this to be false. Thirty-nine officers separated in September and HR doesn’t notice or compile that data for the chief of police? It represents a staffing crisis.

I reached out to SPD and I was told that the Public Disclosure Team is understaffed and just needed more time to submit the information. This didn’t match what the staff analyst relayed to me.

Michael Fields, the Executive Director for Human Resources, did not respond to requests for comment.

The PR push will likely fail because Durkan isn’t a leader

The mayor’s office release of the staff report Friday morning is meant to spotlight the consequences of the council’s reckless action to defund the police. This isn’t just a poorly thought out plan, it’s likely too little, too late.

You’ll notice a media push by Mayor Jenny Durkan and other community voices that understand the significant public safety consequences of such a low staff number. But the decision to release the data on a Friday is baffling.

When you want news to influence decision-makers, you release it on a Monday or Tuesday. Then you let media outlets create momentum with reactions and different angles for the entire week. News usually dies on weekends.

Durkan has lost police support. She deserves to.

Further, Durkan has lost the little support she gained from police officers when she advocated for a new contract. Since then, she’s been mostly silent while cops are dehumanized by activists and even some city council members. She’s been almost completely silent after criminal activists have attempted to murder police.

Do you remember any statements from Durkan after criminal activists used quick-dry cement to seal shut the door to the East Precinct before trying to burn the building down? Did you see a press conference condemning any of the frequent Molotov Cocktail attacks against police? Did you even read a tweet reacting to an Antifa agitator hitting an officer in the head with a bat?

If a reporter pushed, they might get a statement from her office condemning the violence. The statement is almost always attributed to a spokesperson. Durkan is hesitant to openly support the police. She’s scared she’ll alienate the activist crowd that poses a direct threat to her re-election.

Durkan may be a politician, but she’s not a very good one. The activist crowd will never back her and will do whatever they can to defeat her, including backing the inept and radical Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda (who is a likely mayor contender). Nothing Durkan says or does — or doesn’t say or doesn’t do — will change that.

SPOG President Mike Solan, however, is unafraid to back his members and call out the city council.

“This is fixable if our elected leaders start supporting police, instead of pandering to a large activist crowd that’s dividing us when we need unity,” Solan tells me. “False narratives about good people doing policing, pushed by the defund movement, is making our public safety efforts devolve further.”

Yet, Durkan won’t publicly back cops in a meaningful or consistent way. She seems content lazily fighting the council. Durkan has little power to wield, but she does have a bully pulpit she chooses to ignore. When she does use it, she couches everything in carefully chosen social justice buzz words. Sometimes she fights with a power point presentation and a report. Yeah, that’ll change minds.

UPDATE 10/15/20 at 10:15pm

In a Thursday evening email to officers, interim chief Adrian Diaz acknowledged this report. He wrote: “I also want to acknowledge the press reporting, which will be more widescale tomorrow, about the extent of the employees separating from the department. As I have said before – I know these are incredibly hard times. I also have said I will do everything I can to keep this department whole. Each of you is needed. More people in this city want you doing your job than don’t. We are pursuing multiple ways to improve your day-to-day experience – I can only ask that you give us time to see if they are successful.”

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3-6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here. Follow @JasonRantz on Twitter and Instagram or like me on Facebook.

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