Seattle’s police chief floats cutting back the number of officers at sporting events
Aug 10, 2022, 6:19 AM | Updated: 7:14 am
(Photo from Flickr)
The Seattle City Council has voted out of committee Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell’s plan to hire roughly 500 Seattle Police officers over the next five years. In the meantime, the city has to figure out how to police a city that has roughly 400 fewer officers than it needs to fully staff its precincts.
One of the strategies the council and interim Chief Adrian Diaz are considering is cutting back the number of overtime hours dedicated to Seattle sporting events.
“When we start to look at Huskies, Seahawks, Mariners, and all other different events, it does require us to have more officers being drafted … I would like to reduce that footprint, especially when you start to look at Husky games. Are there other agencies that also can take up some of that work?” Diaz asked the Public Safety and Human Services Committee Tuesday.
Complicating the reduction of officer overtime for sporting events is the minimum number of officers required to satisfy certain staffing thresholds required by the Department of Homeland Security.
According to Diaz, the department has determined a blast radius for sporting arenas, within which a police presence is required.
“There are certain requirements that are going to be related to having some level of traffic around a stadium,” Diaz added.
“We’ve done a really good job of mitigating … using barriers and different other objects to be able to help reduce that level of [police] personnel. But yeah, those are things that we’re constantly looking at right now,” Diaz added.
Some large-scale events offer full reimbursement of SPD overtime used for their events: Seattle Seahawks and Mariners games, for example, reimburse the city at cost. Other, smaller events can apply for SPD personnel, paying into a fee structure that does not pay back the total cost of overtime hours incurred.
“We need to, if not eliminate, severely reduce to the minimum requirements that Homeland Security might require for the sporting events so that we can remove officers from needing to do things like show up at sporting events just to shake people’s hand or to manage traffic,” Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda said.