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Seattle Police Chief Diaz: City lacks enough officers to maintain safety

Seattle interim Police Chief Adrian Diaz. (Seattle Channel screengrab)

Seattle City Council is continuing discussions on further efforts to defund the police department, which is coming at a time when Seattle is losing a historic number of police officers. Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz joined the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH to discuss what to expect and his plan for managing it.

“I’m trying to do everything we can to keep all of our officers. We trained them well, they’re doing excellent work day in and day out … I have to make sure that I have the right personnel as we enter into 2021 that’s able to keep this city safe,” he said.

At the moment, Seattle is looking at approximately 1,200 deployable officers. Does Diaz believe that’s enough to keep the city safe?

“No. Even when I was pushing out our budget for next year with the city council, I was explaining the need for us to have people that are going through the academy, that are going through our FTO [Field Training Officer] phase, and then being able to deploy them out,” he said.

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“You have to have close to about 1,400 to then have a reasonable number, which puts us to about 1,250, 1,275 that are deployable. So you really need about 1,400 people to have a much more reasonable staffing when it comes to having enough in patrol investigations and special operations.”

Diaz says this year has been an anomaly with COVID, and that tracing the source of crimes can be difficult at times, especially with low staffing.

“This year in relation to COVID obviously to me is an anomaly year. It’s not that all of our homicides related to gun violence; about 60% of our homicides are actually gun violence. We’ve had homicides related to arson, homicides related to vehicular homicide — vehicle collisions where one was a stolen vehicle — and we have a lot of homicides related to the usage of a knife,” he said.

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“We’re trying to track all aspects of it to see what correlation there is. Is it related to domestic violence? Is it related to homelessness? And so these are all things that we’re trying to pay attention to. When you do see low staffing numbers, it does impact our ability to be visible, to go out and prevent a lot of the homicides from occurring.”

The difficulty is in managing public safety concerns amidst the effort from the city council to significantly cut the budget.

“Our big piece is just trying to make sure that we educate everyone involved. We educate the city council about what our needs are for maintaining public safety throughout the city of Seattle, that we educate the community about the experiences that our officers have to go through,” he said.

“I also need officers that we can routinely kind of rotate out when you have officers that had to deal with demonstrations on a nightly basis with very little time off … We just have to make sure people are aware of that, and the communities are aware, and the city council is aware that this is a difficult job. And the more stress we put on those officers, it can create some adverse effects. And so we try to make sure that we’re taking care of our personnel.”

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.

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