‘I feel like the support is there’: Relationship between SPD, city hall ‘making progress,’ says chief

Mar 28, 2022, 9:31 AM
SPD, city hall...
(Mayor Bruce Harrell)
(Mayor Bruce Harrell)

The oft-contentious relationship between Seattle police and leaders in city hall has often been cited as a reason for officers leaving for other departments. But with a new mayoral administration in place and more consistent dialogue with city council, interim SPD Chief Adrian Diaz says that things have started moving in the right direction.

Mayor Harrell: Seattle needs ‘comprehensive’ plan to bring in new police officers

Complaints related to city council from departing officers date back nearly four years.

“There are lots of people walking out the door,” one officer leaving the department said in 2018. “This is a mass exodus. We’re losing people left and right. Why stick around when the City Council doesn’t appreciate you? [These officers are] fleeing the ‘Seattle mentality.’”

“I refuse to work for this socialist City Council and their political agenda,” an officer said in 2020. “It ultimately will destroy the fabric of this once fine city.”

That came to a head in the spring of 2020, when seven of nine councilmembers expressed support for large-scale cuts to SPD’s budget amid months of social justice protests brought on by the death of George Floyd. Most on the council have since walked back that stance, and as SPD continues to work toward filling staffing shortages, Chief Diaz points to improvements in the department’s relationships with city hall’s elected leaders.

“I’ve had really great conversations with the mayor — I feel like the support is there,” Diaz told KIRO Newsradio’s Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin. “I’ve had conversations with city council, I feel that we are making very good progress.”

Seattle continues to struggle with police staffing, increase in crime

Currently, SPD has over 900 sworn officers on duty, well short of its goal of having between 1,400 and 1,600. Diaz, Mayor Harrell, and city councilmembers have each stressed the need for creative ways to entice new officers, but ultimately, Diaz believes that cooperation will be the most important factor.

“At the end of the day, right now, I have a significant challenge when it comes to staffing, and we’ve got to figure out ways that we can get people hired, and I think all of us have to make sure that we’re coming together, putting everything aside — any politics, any money —  and trying to figure out how we all say, ‘look, this is a priority because public safety is so important in our city,'” he described.

“Morale is starting to increase, because people feel like they’re actually getting something done,” he added. “That’s a huge part of just staffing and retaining officers, but there are things that we also have to do on the back end.”

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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‘I feel like the support is there’: Relationship between SPD, city hall ‘making progress,’ says chief