JASON RANTZ

Rantz: Nearly 150 Seattle cops left the department in ’21, as CM Herbold asks about cutting 50%

Oct 5, 2021, 6:05 PM | Updated: Oct 6, 2021, 10:49 am
seattle police...
Almost 150 officers have separated from the Seattle Police Department this year. (Photo: Jason Rantz/KTTH)
(Photo: Jason Rantz/KTTH)

Nearly 150 officers have separated from the Seattle Police Department in 2021. Since last year’s historic mass exodus, 335 officers have left in total. SPD staffing has exceeded crisis levels for a city the size of Seattle. But that hasn’t stopped one Seattle council member’s office from asking about what a 50% budget cut would mean to the SPD.

According to data obtained by the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH, 129 officers have officially left the SPD this year. There are 20 more separations in line to be processed in the coming weeks. Consequently, there’s only 1,048 deployable staff for the entire city.

The vast majority of the separations are resignations (46) and retirements (76). At least 17 of the resignations landed in other in-state law enforcement agencies. Many of the retirees left law enforcement altogether.

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The numbers are worse than you think

At the same time, two sources with knowledge of the data explain that approximately 125 officers are on “extended leave.” These are officers who are not eligible to be deployed into the field as they’re out using their accrued sick or vacation time.

Interim Chief Adrian Diaz recently emailed staff imploring them to turn in their vaccination paperwork, as mandated by the mayor. He said that “hundreds” of officers have not yet done so. That number includes vaccinated officers who haven’t submitted their paperwork yet. They have until Oct. 18 to do so, and some are purposefully waiting until the last day before turning over private medical data.

According to an internal SPD document obtained by the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH, there were 205 patrol officers (38%) who had not submitted their paperwork as of Tuesday, Oct. 5. There are also 152 non-patrol staff members who have yet to submit their vaccine paperwork.

The SPD apparently has contingency plans ready should the mayor fire the officers who did not abide by the mandate. Multiple police sources have explained shifts on Oct. 18 were made 12-hours long and non-patrol is to be uniform ready in case they are needed.

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The staffing crisis already impacted public safety

Most appear to believe Mayor Jenny Durkan’s vaccine mandate, under threat of termination, is government overreach. Some simply don’t want the vaccine. Others are naturally immune thanks to a previous infection. They could be fired if Durkan follows through on her threat.

“The impact of public safety is pretty clear as we have, on average, eight-minute response times to priority one emergent calls and then, to top it off, every shift is below minimum safe staffing,” Seattle Police Officers Guild President Mike Solan told the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH. “And what I mean by safe staffing is having enough cops to back other cops for these 911 response calls that could be hazardous to not only themselves but people in our community. [Monday], I was told that the first watch precinct and in the east, … they had three officers available for calls. Three. They had to ask for other officers to respond citywide for those number one response times.”

The department, meanwhile, is struggling with recruitment.

The SPD has hired just 58 new recruits this year and, assuming they all make it through training, those recruits will not be fully ready to impact the staffing crisis anytime soon. The numbers are so low that the department is looking to hire as many qualified officers as soon as possible.

They were, however, able to mitigate some of the damage the exodus brought to the department. The SPD hired 51 last year. But they still need more.

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Renewed push for defunding

During the height of the Black Lives Matter movement, most Seattle City Council members promised a 50% cut in the SPD budget.

The council delivered 20% cuts instead of 50%, but a cut of nearly $70 million still hurt the department. It was a reminder to police officers that they’re not respected by their employer. It accelerated the mass exodus, with record-setting 186 separations in 2020, according to many officers who spoke to the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH.

Now there’s a renewed push to defund the police by the same anti-police activists who marched, rallied, and rioted last year for change. Only this time, the demands come during a heated election that will choose the next mayor, at-large city council members, and city attorney. And the Seattle City Council is currently deliberating the 2022 budget.

In an email to SPD, a staffer with Councilmember Lisa Herbold’s office asked about the impacts of a 50% budget cut.

“Some members of the public are still calling for a 50% reduction to SPD’s budget despite the fact that 80% of SPD’s budget is personnel costs: what would be the impact of such a reduction on, for example, staffing and 911 response times?”

The answer seems obvious given the current response times regularly exceed 60 minutes. So what was the intent? Councilmember Herbold did not respond to a request for comment, but council spokesperson Dana Robinson Slote said the councilmember won’t push for a 50% reduction.

“Councilmember Herbold is not considering a 50% cut. Her staff asked the City Budget Office questions about the impact of a 50% cut in order to provide the public with specifics about impacts of a proposal like this on response times and staffing,” Robinson Slote explained to the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH.

Having seen previous efforts to defund the police from Herbold, who previously claimed she supported hiring more cops before changing course, Solan is concerned.

“I think that this council has a history of continuing to bend to the activist mob, the mob rule that dictates public safety political discourse in this city,” Solan said.

Solan says to ensure that the small but vocal activist groups don’t get their way on public safety, the public has to actually get out and vote. Soon, they’ll have their chance.

The mayor’s race in focus

Current council president Lorena Gonzalez faces former council president Bruce Harrell. Both hold dramatically different views on policing and it is likely to impact the SPD’s budget.

Harrell has been critical of policing and attempted to speak to the BLM activists. But he’s rejected “arbitrary and divisive public safety budget debates” that aims to cut police staffing. And he’s called for investment, not divestment, in police recruitment efforts. He told the Seattle Times that “defunding and department attrition is not a solution.” He promised to “restore staffing to national best practices.”

Gonzalez, on the other hand, was a chief architect in the police defunding accomplished in 2020. She is looking to replace officers with social workers and has openly called for the firing of veteran officers on the basis of them being white. And while violent crime has skyrocketed under her tenure on the council, hitting a 26-year-high in 2020 with this year on pace to meet or exceed that record, Gonzalez claims current programs to address these issues are working. Though she won’t blame gang violence or homelessness for the spike, she will blame gun violence without saying who is using the guns.

“We cannot solve our city’s epidemic of gun violence with law enforcement alone,” Gonzalez told the Seattle Times. “Murder rates in Seattle have increased over the past decade even as the police budget has increased. Solving this problem requires a holistic approach with a variety of violence intervention programs.”

This is not true.

Homicide rates were relatively stable from 2011-2016, averaging at 21. Seattle has exceeded that rate each year since 2017, when the policies were in early development. Around 2017, the city (and King County) dramatically drifted left when dealing with criminals. The city and county effectively saw drug decriminalization and restorative justice programs over jail time. At the same time, the homicide rate skyrocketed.

Despite poor results, Gonzalez is expected to continue down the defund path in hopes she’ll attract the activist vote demanding a defunding of police.

Accelerating the exodus

Anti-police activists hope that police and prison abolitionists are elected. They’re doing what they can to make that happen.

Failed 2016 mayoral candidate Nikkita Oliver won the primary for at-large councilmember. When not trying to abolish the police, Oliver helps keep criminals out of prison only for them to re-offend. And yet Oliver isn’t the only extremist who won the primary.

Nicole Thomas-Kennedy won the primary for city attorney. She, too, is an abolitionist who loathes cops. Though she’s tried to delete some of her most egregious tweets, Thomas-Kennedy calls cops pigs and Nazis. She promises she won’t enforce the law by choosing not to prosecute most misdemeanor crimes.

Defund advocate Teresa Mosqueda will win re-election for the council. The council member wasn’t seriously challenged, despite being a leading voice to defund the police. She was also a leading voice — quite literally — in defending a man who threatened to murder police.

If all three candidates are elected, Seattle police tell the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH that they will ditch the city almost immediately.

Did you like this opinion piece? Then listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3-6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here. Follow @JasonRantz  on  Twitter,  Instagram, and Parler, and like me on Facebook

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Rantz: Nearly 150 Seattle cops left the department in ’21, as CM Herbold asks about cutting 50%