SPD stops assigning adult sexual assault cases, loses 100 detectives over 2019

Jun 1, 2022, 2:09 PM | Updated: 2:19 pm
(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

The Seattle Police Department has stopped assigning adult sexual assault cases due to a declining number of available detectives, according to an internal memo between Sgt. Pamela St. John and interim Chief Adrian Diaz, obtained by the Seattle Times and KUOW.

Diaz confirmed that the department has seen a marked decrease in detectives since 2019, with the current number residing at 134 over 2019’s 234 detectives. SPD’s Special Assault and Child Abuse Unit had 12 detectives three years ago, whereas four currently staff the unit.

“It put a massive stress level on all of our units. It has created drastic challenges for all of us. That’s one reason why we’re trying to adjust. We are cross assigning sexual assault cases with our domestic violence unit. We brought in a couple of our officers to do 30-day assignments to also help fill the backlog. And … a second detective will come in later this month of June,” Diaz told KIRO Newsradio.

The interim police chief characterized the memo as a “simplification,” pointing out that the department continues to “work through every case,” with the caveat that some number of sexual assault cases are triaged or prioritized according to whether a rape suspect is in custody.

The Seattle Times article points out detective assignment discrepancies among different SPD departments: the Alternative Response Team, for example, is staffed at twice the levels of the sexual assault unit, belaying the argument that staffing attrition writ large is the reason adult sexual assault cases are deprioritized within the sexual assault unit.

“You raise a good point that we are constantly, always trying to evaluate,” Diaz responded, pointing out that the department has seen an increase of shootings in encampments, justifying the number of detectives staffed in the Alternative Response Team.

“We’re having to always assess and adjust when it comes to sexual assault. I’ve upstaffed the sexual assault cases … assigning cases to that domestic violence unit. We’re trying to make sure that we are properly investigating every sexual assault,” Diaz added.

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SPD stops assigning adult sexual assault cases, loses 100 detectives over 2019