‘This cannot be the new normal,’ top state police official says
Jul 12, 2023, 7:02 AM | Updated: 7:35 am
With violent crime in Seattle soaring, the Executive Director of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs says we must recognize “this cannot be the new normal.”
Talking on the Gee & Ursula show, Steve Strachan said. “It really frustrates me when I hear people talk about there’s not much you can do. ”
Washington is seeing the highest murder rate in the past 40 years.
Other significant trends the report disclosed were motor vehicle theft rising by 34%, nearly 46% of all crimes against persons were defined as domestic violence, and 544 hate crimes were reported last year — all while the state logged 719 fewer arrests for drug or narcotic violations.
“Essentially, if you boil it down, there was a homicide every 22 hours,” host Ursula Reutin said. “And at the same time, Washington ranks 51st dead last in the nation for the number of police officers per capita.”
There is a new national study by the nonpartisan Council on Criminal Justice. “They noticed that homicides and violent crime were trending slightly downward nationally; that’s clearly not what we’re seeing in our state. And so I think the first thing is to recognize the problem and not accept this status quo. Do not accept this status quo of increasing violent crime and homicides, increasing motor vehicle theft, and just lower and lower numbers of law enforcement officers.”
Strachan explained that the state lost another 70 officers in 2022. Washington is down to 10,600 police officers for a state with 7.8 million people.
“Another way to put that is the state grew by about 93,000 people last year, 2022. That’s the population of the city of Kirkland. So we added a population the size of Kirkland, and we lost 70 officers in a state where we have been 51st in the nation and staffing for 13 straight years.”
Strachan said the state’s current situation is “bad and getting worse.”
He said that he believes policymakers on both sides of the aisle want to help decrease the crime problem.
“I think we’re in a place now where we can start to really get constructive and start to move forward on these things. But it’s going to start with recognizing that staffing is an issue for law enforcement.”
Strachan said we need to get to the point where officers will respond to 911 calls.
“That brings crime down and reduces victimization. So it’s not just more cops, we certainly have to pay attention to that, but also figuring out how to hold people accountable and create meaningful consequences to change the environment out there.”
Strachan said he thinks leaders are impacted by social media and that people want simplistic answers to complex questions. He said being in law enforcement is a very difficult job.
“It’s harder than ever. Scrutiny and accountability are sometimes slid into a sort of demonizing. And again, I think everyone sees this and recognizes the importance of law enforcement.”
Strachan said it’s not about a $10,000 signing bonus. People who want to become police officers do it because it’s their passion.
“I’ve done it for 35 years. That’s why it’s, it’s so rewarding. helping people to understand that if you want to make a difference in the world, and help people and solve problems, this is a great job.”
Strachan believes the environment is not supportive of law enforcement.
“It’s about meaningful work where they feel supported by their community,” he said. “That doesn’t mean that they’re not held accountable. It just means that they’re supported by their community.”
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.