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Hatred of police, lack of support and politics among reasons for SPD exodus in exit interviews

Seattle police during a recent protest. (Getty Images)

Nearly 40 Seattle police officers left the department in September, which is far more than the usual five to seven exits the department sees for the month.

Between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30 of 2020, 110 officers left the Seattle Police Department, and police sources say that number is likely to rise significantly over the next six to eight weeks.

SPD Chief Diaz points to ‘sharp difference’ between peaceful protests and riots

On Monday, Interim Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz was asked about the exits from the department and suggested many of those leaving for other departments had done so for security after the push to dramatically defund the department started in the city council this summer.

“Because they thought maybe I wasn’t going to have a job in two months or three months and so we did see quite a few leave in the month of September,” Diaz said, pointing out that it is not an immediate process once an officer applies to move to another department and is accepted.

That may be the case for some departures, but exit interviews released by Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office Monday show there is much more to it.

“I refuse to work for this socialist city council and their political agenda,” wrote one sergeant who had been with the department for more than 20 years before retiring in August.

“This agenda sacrifices the health and well-being of the officers and ultimately will destroy the fabric of this once fine city,” the sergeant added.

“Never,” the sergeant replied on the written form when asked whether they’d ever return to work at SPD, describing officers at the department as the finest he’d ever encountered, but adding they were in an unwinnable battle with the city council.

“City politics also is non-supportive and, at times, hostile toward officers,” wrote a 57-year-old motorcycle officer who added after 31 years on the job, they didn’t feel like risking their pension or health and well-being any longer.

Asked what they enjoyed least about their job at the SPD, the officer stated, “The total lack of respect and support from the city council and the mayor.”

In another exit interview, a patrol officer with more than 20 years wrote they were leaving because they “no longer recognize this department as the one I joined.”

That officer, and others, complained about poor management and leadership.

“The utter lack of supervision, accountability for incompetent, despicable, lazy officers who were really good at gas lighting other hard workers,” one officer wrote, complaining about daily unfairness of seeing rules enforced for some and not others.

The officer also complained about not having the proper equipment during protests, such as shields from rocks and fireworks, finally coming to the realization that the department was not providing the equipment for “us to do this job safely and did not care.”

But others leaving the department had more positive things to say.

One noted the most positive thing about their experience with the SPD was the “clear direction, integrity, expectations, and leadership.”

Others cited age, moving to part-time positions, a family member’s health, and other reasons for their exit – but even those with a positive experience often had a word or so to share about the lack of support from city leaders and their superiors.

“Overall good experience,” one exiting officer wrote, but expressed disappointment at allowing the DOJ to ruin the department, then when it was fixed, giving into politics.

Others said some of the more positive experiences involved the few community members that showed support for police.

The number one positive for most officers was camaraderie with their fellow officers and the ability to protect and serve their communities.

Among the suggestions from exiting officers for improving the department was to not let civilians try to run the department.

You can see more of the exit interviews here.

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