SPD Chief Diaz: Could take years to solve police department’s staffing crisis

Mar 3, 2022, 10:58 AM | Updated: Mar 4, 2022, 7:10 am
Seattle police, vaccine mandate, Chief DIaz...
(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

As concerns continue to mount over public safety in Seattle’s downtown core, interim Police Chief Adrian Diaz’s focus right now is on having as many officers as he can spare patrolling the area. That said, SPD continues to grapple with being short-staffed, and it appears as though that situation likely won’t be resolved any time soon.

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In early February, Mayor Bruce Harrell announced a so-called “hotspot” patrol initiative, designed to target specific areas of the city experiencing disproportionate crime rates with an influx of police officers. That began with emphasis patrols around 12th Avenue and South Jackson Street, with SPD’s focus now turning to Third Avenue and Pine Street.

“We are now moving all of our resources over to Third and Pine,” Chief Diaz told KIRO Newsradio’s Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin. “Since last night, we have already upstaffed the amount of presence that we will have, we have a mobile precinct that is also going to be in this area, and now we’re working with a variety of different other departments to assist us in bringing resources to the area.”

Amid concerns voiced by business owners over an uptick in crimes, Diaz hopes to establish “a more visible presence” throughout the downtown corridor, in hopes of stabilizing the situation. But with SPD’s staffing at its current level, he also notes this has been “difficult to maintain 24/7.”

To account for that in the near term, the department is pulling officers from each of its precincts and having them walk downtown beats, while exhausting any and all avenues to fill other gaps.

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“We’re going to draw from every precinct, we’re going to draw from every bureau,” Diaz described.

“To be clear, we are not transitioning from a Stage 2 mobilization to a higher posture,” Diaz clarified in a written statement. “We are simply re-deploying a small contingent of Officers, Detectives, and Community Service Officers. Overtime related to personnel deployed for these emphasis shifts is approved.”

Meanwhile, Diaz says SPD is still short around 500 officers due to a slew of recent departures and retirements, and closing that gap will likely be a years-long effort.

“We’re committed to making sure that we rebuild this department and that we do hire those 500 officers — we need them,” he said. “We know that we’re going to be hiring 100 officers every year for the next five years, if not longer, just to get us back up to some level of building this department up.”

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article quoted interim Police Chief Adrian Diaz as saying SPD is transitioning to stage 3 mobilization. Diaz retracted that statement Thursday afternoon.

Listen to Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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SPD Chief Diaz: Could take years to solve police department’s staffing crisis