Rantz: Mayor Harrell’s police staffing ‘plan’ is embarrassing, impossible, and not really a plan

Jul 13, 2022, 5:57 PM | Updated: Jul 14, 2022, 11:22 am
Bruce Harrell...
Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell. (Office of the Mayor, Twitter)
(Office of the Mayor, Twitter)

Mayor Bruce Harrell’s plan to bolster the Seattle Police Department by 500 officers by 2027 is embarrassing. It’s not really even a plan and the numbers make no sense.

Harrell’s plan is centered around recruitment bonuses with a maximum of $7,500 for recruits and $30,000 for lateral transfers from other departments. He also announced plans to hire more civilian recruitment specialists. But the spending plan depends entirely on the Seattle City Council’s approval. This obviously won’t cut it.

While public polling may sway most of the Council, Harrell hasn’t presented anything new. He’s going to incentivize applicants better? That’s been tried, and it’s largely failed. While more money can motivate some, officers are leaving the force to take jobs paying less because they don’t want to work in Seattle or Washington.

Can you pause your victimhood for five years?

So far this year, the SPD has lost 103 officers. Harrell says that if we hire 500 new officers by 2027, we’ll have a force of roughly 1,450. Does the mayor think, all of a sudden, cops won’t continue to leave the department?

In the unlikely event the mayor is successful, the city will see 500 new officers over a five-year span. Perhaps the Mayor isn’t getting the updates, but we’re in the middle of a violent crime surge. With 30 homicides year-to-date, the city is on pace to exceed last year’s 43. We’ve already surpassed the ten-year average of 28.8.

What’s the plan to address the current crime surge? We need hundreds of new officers right now.

While the Mayor says we have 954 deployable officers, it obfuscates a vital stat. The SPD only has 839 officers (as of mid-June), with sergeants, captains, assistant chiefs, and chief making up the rest. We need more officers, and 500 won’t cut it.

The SPD said the city needs 1,500-1,600 new officers just before the COVID pandemic hit. But after a crime surge, we only need 1,450 five years from now? Not only does that not keep up with the crime trends, but it presumes no increase in population.

Harrell says he has a plan. That’s generous

It’s a very generous interpretation to claim Harrell has a plan. He has some ideas. Some are good. Some are not. Most won’t move the needle since his plan doesn’t mention agreeing to a workable contract with officers. They need a contract.

The mayor wants to spend money on new branding for recruitment efforts. Unless he changes the city’s leadership and lobbies to change laws that made policing more difficult, there’s not a logo in the world that will help recruitment efforts.

Since this is Seattle, Harrell panders with the promise that the new hires will “reflect Seattle’s values and diverse communities.” He also says he wants applicants who live in Seattle (or will live in Seattle). He doesn’t actually want a reflection of our “diverse communities” because Seattle isn’t diverse.

The city is 66% white, 16% Asian, 7% black, 7% Latino, and 0.5% Native American. Does Harrell want a majority white police department? Do the community activists he listens to want only 7% black officer demographics?

The mayor means that, while desperate for new officers, the SPD should reject white male officers and focus on racial minorities. But if mostly white people apply, after decades of activists telling black and Latino communities that cops are racist and you’re a sellout if you become one, how will we hire enough cops to meet the mayor’s goal? A better strategy is to hire people who are best for the job, rather than the identity you’re tokenizing. Or would that be actually anti-racist?

His strategy demands we “partner with businesses, private organizations, educational institutions, and community-based organizations to promote public service careers in law enforcement.” Can he get the council and activists the city partners with to stop calling cops racist murderers or chant ACAB?

Harrell says he would like to “prioritize the recruitment of applicants with… experience providing social services.” This mayor and city council consistently say they don’t want police to be social workers. They want actual social workers to handle 911 calls. Doesn’t this run counter to their previous goals? Or is this a way of recruiting a new type of officer? One who may be more like social workers and less like actual cops. Seems safe.

Here’s what you need to do

I’m grateful that the mayor highlighted the crisis and said cops are important. He can’t stop after one press conference on a Wednesday morning.

Harrell needs to hit this message constantly and create public support. It’s politically tricky for him to support cops too much, as his advisors will worry the loud activist class will cause problems. It’s bad advice — it’s the kind that former mayor Jenny Durkan took and it ran her out of town.

The mayor needs to call out any councilmember who demonizes cops. Councilmembers Kshama Sawant, Teresa Mosqueda, Lisa Herbold, Dan Strauss, and Tammy Morales do not like cops. They do not hide their disdain for them. Herbold and Strauss are politically vulnerable so the mayor could win them over, but their rhetoric needs to change. Simply not attacking cops isn’t good enough.

Most importantly, Harrell needs to do two things he won’t: lobby the state legislature to drop the anti-police bills and demand the department do the same. He will never do this because he agrees with the policies.

When the Seattle Inspector General portrayed cops as so racist and dangerous they shouldn’t pull motorists over, what did Harrell say? Nothing. That’s cowardly. Instead, the department adopted new policies pushed by the radicals the Inspector General works with.

Has the mayor helped voice support for cops condemning statewide laws hamstringing their efforts to go after criminals? No. He appears to have embraced him.

So how is this “plan” suppose to work, exactly?

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3–6 pm on KTTH 770 AM (HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here. Follow @JasonRantz  on  Twitter,  Instagram, and Facebook. Check back frequently for more news and analysis.

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Rantz: Mayor Harrell’s police staffing ‘plan’ is embarrassing, impossible, and not really a plan