By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Though interim Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz sought to boost SPD’s patrol ranks recently by moving 100 officers out of non-patrol duties, the Southwest Precinct‘s commander has said at community meetings that it didn’t help much, because many of the officers he was scheduled to get had given notice instead.
We hadn’t heard specific numbers in his previous mentions, but last night at the Alki Community Council‘s monthly online meeting, Capt. Kevin Grossman shared the stats – he’d been told to expect 10 patrol officers, but seven retired, so he got three, though even that helped, he said. Attrition is a current citywide problem – he lost three people just this week. The ones who are old enough are retiring, he said, while the ones with 5 to 10 years of experience tend to make “lateral” moves – to another law-enforcement agency – though some are just quitting to start another career.
In addition to Capt. Grossman’s updates, this morning we have new numbers from SPD, released toward the start of what could be another budget battle between the City Council and Mayor. Her office went public with a look at current and projected staffing – a report that West Seattle/South Park City Councilmember Lisa Herbold told WSB she had been requesting for a month, as chair of the Public Safety Committee.
The headline from the mayor’s office, which circulated the information to local business leaders before going public, is that SPD lost more than twice as many officers in September as it’s lost in any single month in department history – 39, including 3 who were in training:
September would normally see the department lose 5 to 7 officers, the report says. It also warns about staffing levels in general:
The report also shows that response times for Priority 1 – the most serious – offenses have been higher than the 7-minute target – here’s the Southwest Precinct (West Seattle/South Park) breakout:
If the trend continues – and if the council chooses to continue the 70-position cut it made in the summer “re-balancing” – the report warns of a staffing-level plummet:
We asked the mayor’s office for more Southwest Precinct specifics, but haven’t received them. When we first contacted Councilmember Herbold for reaction at midday Thursday, she had yet to receive the report from the mayor’s office, but that changed at day’s end.
Regarding the departure of reassigned officers, Herbold says, “I support Chief Diaz’s strong leadership to deploy officers where they are needed most. Officers who do not want to follow their Chief in the changes that he identifies as the best for the Department and best for the City might find more job satisfaction elsewhere. As it relates to officers who left for other reasons, I understand that working for months at a time managing multiple crises has made this a hard year for everyone on front lines.” She notes that (corrected) the Seattle Fire Department, for example, originally projected 38 separations for the entire year but had 45 through August.
But she contends the new report is not as apocalyptic as some might see it: “One month’s data is not a trend. The separations projected for 2020 at the start of the year was 92 officers. The September numbers bring us to 18 more than the annual projection, this includes six officers who were terminated and one who has died. Terminated or deceased officers are not included in the annual projections, so for an apples to apples comparison, it’s 11 more than were projected to retire or resign this year.”
The council’s move to transition some police duties to community-safety alternatives, she insists, will help: “I’m glad to have received word that the Mayor’s Office is working hard to finalize the contracts for $4 million that the Council allocated in the 2020 rebalanced budget for ‘community safety programs with an aim to scale-up, amend contracts, and expand services as soon as possible. There is another $10 million Council allocated for mental health professionals, substance disorder professionals, domestic-violence professionals, violence disruptors, and others so we can create the crisis response infrastructure to respond to 911 calls that do not need an officer to respond.” City stats have shown that category could constitute more than half of all 911 calls.
But in the meantime, the mayor and SPD are sounding an alarm bell, with the council set to finalize the budget within six weeks; their counterproposals to the mayor’s budget have not yet been announced. This will all likely get a big bright spotlight when SPD makes its “issue identification” appearance at council budget meetings next Tuesday and Wednesday, when discussions are scheduled on SPD and “community safety” in general.