Rantz: Seattle Police exodus worsens, 270 out since ’20, with 100 more ‘unavailable’
Almost 275 police officers have left the Seattle Police Department since 2020. The staffing crisis has never been worse, with the lowest number of deployable staff since the 1980s.
This year, a total of 84 officers separated from the SPD, with 18 leaving in May, according to a police source. A separation is an all-inclusive term that includes resignations, retirements, and lateral moves to other agencies.
The latest data puts total separations at a minimum of 270 since 2020. If this pace holds up, the SPD will far exceed last year’s historic numbers. And we’re headed into the summer, where separations have historically spiked.
But the staffing crisis is actually worse than it appears. Not only do separation data lag when reported officially by the SPD, but it also doesn’t account for unavailable personnel.
Burning accrued time off
There are over 100 officers unavailable for deployment, according to an internal document from late May 2021, shared with the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH.
HR Personnel Orders, as some officers call the document, show the officers unavailable for deployment. The list ranges from patrol officers and detectives, to lieutenants and sergeants.
Many of these officers are burning through the vacation and sick time they earned. They’re owed the time, and they’re taking it. But eventually, they leave the department.
It’s unclear how many of the 100+ unavailable officers are burning time before they leave. Sources with knowledge of who is on the list suspect it’s about 40-50%, but worry it’s more.
Last month, Interim Chief Adrian Diaz acknowledged only 1,088 officers are available for deployment. The benchmark for this department is 1,400. Consistently, officers tell the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH that their precinct’s staffing is at or below staffing minimums.
With the new separations and unavailable officers, that number is closer to 1,000 in a city that is about to fully reopen without COVID restrictions. With more people on the street, there’s a higher likelihood of crime.
The mass exodus of Seattle officers can’t be overstated
The implications of this mass exodus cannot be overstated.
As officers leave the department in droves, violent crime continues to escalate across the city. In 2020, the city saw a 26-year high homicide rate. Since January 2021, the SPD has investigated well over 100 reports of gunfire and 13 homicides. And these crimes have disproportionately impacted the city’s Black residents. Defunding our police has seen deadly results.
Due to low staffing, officers sometimes can only respond to priority one calls — emergencies in progress that require immediate police intervention. But it can take over seven minutes for police to respond.
This is not sustainable. And it’s going to get worse.
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