SEATTLE POLICE: Staffing-level concerns continue, even before council mulls more cuts

(WSB file photo)

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.

48 Replies to "SEATTLE POLICE: Staffing-level concerns continue, even before council mulls more cuts"

  • Bob Loblaw October 16, 2020 (9:33 am)

    No need to de-fund the police. They’re leaving on their own. And who could blame them? Yesterday a SPD officer was almost burned alive in his patrol car in downtown Afghani-Seattle.  With a useless governor, a feckless mayor and a spineless city council working indirectly (and sometimes directly) against them, why would ANYONE want to be an SPD officer? Sadly, I don’t see things getting better for WS. It just may be time to follow the lead of so many SPD folks and look at better options elsewhere….

    • Jort October 16, 2020 (12:10 pm)

      Afghani-Seattle?! Holy cow, you guys never disappoint with the non-stop drama queen analogies. You know, maybe some day, 25,000 years from now, Seattle actually will “die” and you’ll all finally get your greatest wishes to come true. This kind of rhetoric is just soooooo over-the-top and histrionic. You guys have been prediction the “death” of “Freeattle” because of “the Clowncil” for decades. Holy crap let it go.

      • Neutral October 16, 2020 (3:23 pm)

        Downtown is abhorrent and it’s crawling into our neighborhood.  The Mayor, City Council, County Executive, Governor and State Supreme Court are all Democratically controlled, so we can’t blame the Republicans for this hot mess.  A good LEO is really hard to find; like really, really hard and now they are leaving our city.  We’re screwed now. 

        • LR October 16, 2020 (4:02 pm)

          Spot on NEUTRAL.  Unfortunately when some see this the som3 of the damage will already be done. 

        • alki_2008 October 16, 2020 (7:13 pm)

          To be fair, we don’t know whether the LEO’s that left were “good” or “bad” ones.  One could argue either side.

          • MW October 16, 2020 (8:19 pm)

             Alki & Jort’s statements strike me as cynical.  Clearly “to be fair”, a disinterested person may stand back and cooly watch a house burn, analyzing the particular joists he sees on fire casually wondering whether they should be rated “bad”, “good”, or “important” parts of the house worthy of saving, or this  person may suggest perhaps that the house is just burning off its non-critical parts (a fun thought experiment).   This person scoffs that those around him shouting “fire” are conspiracy theorists, over-reacting exaggerators .  He performs this cynical act to try and disrupt or delay an emergency response.   He is the chaos-bringer.   Of course, when the house has been destroyed this person pretends he was never there.   It’s the ultimate cynicism.  It’s the ugly Seattle.  

  • L October 16, 2020 (9:40 am)

    It appears that the City Council doesn’t even need to execute on its misguided effort to defund the police as they are leaving in droves anyway.   This is what happens when even our elected officials demonize the police as racists.   It’s despicable behavior and the result will be increasing crime in a city that was already descending into lawlessness.   Message to all people who believe in the Defund the Police Movement:   Don’t call the police when you need them.

  • WSRes October 16, 2020 (9:44 am)

    As a first responder I can tell you that a response time of greater than 7min is unacceptable for a large urban area like ours. These are response times expected in a rural area, even the suburbs have better response times than this? Add this to our increase in crime and I’m concerned we’re headed for a crisis. How long can you stand your ground without the assistance of the police? The council and the mayor are to blame for this and this is their issue to solve. Blanket vilification of a workforce and defunding them isn’t answer, but I’m not surprised this was the situation they’ve put us in. 

  • Dr. No October 16, 2020 (9:51 am)

    Keep your head in the sand Lisa, nice job. 

  • John W October 16, 2020 (10:11 am)

    The war against SPD is being fought, and won, on the popular but false assumption that all police are bad.We have no re-imagined resources to handle the chronic and immediate societal challenges that we assigned unjustly to SPD.  This situation is exacerbated by the city’s halting and dismantling the homeless outreach “Navigation Team.” Our City Councilperson should present her own “re-imagination” of where her shift of policy is leading?

  • Anne October 16, 2020 (10:15 am)

    But -but-isn’t this what people want??? I mean the  SCC heard from the people -right? Then -albeit unusual for them , seeing how it usually takes forever to make a decision -they quickly moved to defund police-never mind that they’ve paid no attention to what the reality of that might mean-just details-right? Well it seems many LEO have made it easy-have left on their own.I wish them well-thank them for their service & dedication to our communities. As for the us-well when you really need help & the response time is long-that’s just part of the consequences of getting what you asked for.  

  • Duffy October 16, 2020 (10:55 am)

    You can support police and still demand police reform. It doesn’t need to be either unwavering support or vehement disregard, regardless of what the SPOG says. The SPOG is toxic and quite frankly they are complicit in committing fraud. If cops don’t wanna cop and they want to move on to another career, then certainly that is their right, but this notion that we cannot, under any circumstances criticize police is utter crap. This is the real world people. Police work for us and operate under the lens that we should have the power to create.

    • L October 16, 2020 (12:18 pm)

      Duffy – Whoever said we can’t criticize the police under any circumstances?   Of course it’s OK to provide constructive criticism.   It’s not OK to demonize all of them as brutal racists, which is what the city council and many of their activitist supporters have done.

    • LR October 16, 2020 (2:19 pm)

      Absolutely no one is saying we cannot criticize the police.  Everyone is now finally coming to realize that getting rid of a lot of the police and completely removing support for them is idiotic and dangerous. 

  • DRC October 16, 2020 (11:08 am)

                  All these comments are very good and right to the point

  • AMD October 16, 2020 (11:12 am)

    So cops are getting the same treatment teachers have gotten for decades, but when it’s cops we blame the city council instead of saying cops should just deal with it if their love their communities and they should just hold a bake sale if they want tasers.  I mean, neither extreme is good and it would be super cool if these discussions incorporated the whole picture.  But its’ SHOCKING how different the narrative is when we talk about defunding the institutions that prepare our children to be capable members of society versus defending the institutions that handle the consequences of defunding the former.

    • skeeter October 16, 2020 (11:44 am)

      AMD.  Nonsense.  Show me an email, article, or clip in which the city council (or, more accurately, the school board) has proposed cutting or defunding the education budget by 50% in the name of “reform.”  This is all on the city council.  They did not recognize that their words had meaning.  Instead of doing the hard work of meaningful police reform, they made reckless statements about defunding and massive police budget cuts.  This played out well for the uninformed crowds cheering them on.  Not so well for the city, dependent on our police department to keep us safe.  You don’t play with fire unless you have an extinguisher handy.  Even children know that.  

      • YES2WS October 16, 2020 (12:25 pm)

        AMD is correct. I especially  appreciated the reference to bake sales. Really drives the point home. (Well, to most of us anyway). 

      • Question Mark October 16, 2020 (2:49 pm)

        SKEETER, it would be voters cutting the school district’s desired budget that would be the usual culprit for that service, really.

  • wetone October 16, 2020 (11:25 am)

     Had to leave West Seattle yesterday. Headed down to W Marginal past swing bridge at 10:30am. yesterday. There was 3 motorcycle cops (on west side on bridge) so probably same on east side.  Officers on west side each had cars pulled over and giving warnings as directed by City Officials. I sat through 2 lights, counted 14 vehicles that traveled across bridge, very little traffic, as usual between 10am-3pm.  I thought to myself is this really a smart use of SPD at these times ? NO !   Priorities of this city are really screwed up……… during morning and evening commute times fine,  but this is just politics and groups pushing their agendas ……….  Feel sorry for SPD officers having to deal with their employer,  hope they find better employment that supports them 110%    thanks for your service.

    • WSB October 16, 2020 (11:49 am)

      Well, the cameras should take care of that. Also, since you bring it up, in our email conversation, Councilmember Herbold also said, “I’m also working with the parking enforcement officers union through the budget process so that they can do some of the work police officers currently do, like verify automated enforcement tickets, respond to non-injury collisions, respond to and report on minor thefts and car break-ins, and act as flaggers at construction sites and events (SPD officers currently do this at great overtime expense). Again, the goal is for sworn officers to do less of what we don’t need them to do so we can ensure that the force has the person-power to do the work that they must do.”

      • wetone October 16, 2020 (1:43 pm)

        The issue is bridge does not need protected whether SPD, parking enforcement or cameras between 10:30am 2:30pm. Bridge can handle the traffic at this time and would benefit those that need in/out of WS. Helping those with doctor/medical  appointments, materials/stores runs for businesses and residents and so much more.  Again this is strictly city politics and special interest groups pushing their ideology, control and $$$ grab onto all. While lawlessness continues to grow… Doesn’t  seem to be working to well does it…… murders up,  crimes up, drug use up, city is filthy, none to little mental heath services for those in need, infrastructure failing………..  The cameras will be great if used properly, but bridge needs to be open during non- commute times.

    • Brth October 16, 2020 (5:41 pm)

      Stop blaming officers (by insinuation). They HATE that stupid detail. Decisions and blame ALL rest at City Hall. NOT on the police motorcycle or in cruisers.

  • psps October 16, 2020 (12:12 pm)

    The ones leaving are probably ones who never should have been hired in the first place.  They’ll land in another jurisdiction where they can resume their role as an “occupying force.”

    • Anonymous Coward October 16, 2020 (2:14 pm)

      Have you even considered the possibility that the best cops are leaving while the ones staying are those which other agencies are unwilling to hire?

    • LR October 16, 2020 (2:23 pm)

      This is a dangerously incorrect thing to say. The ones leaving may VERY well be the ones we want.  You have no idea what you’re talking about.  

    • Beth October 16, 2020 (5:41 pm)

      Wrong.

  • Jort October 16, 2020 (12:13 pm)

    Gosh, maybe the department will have to decide to send a few less officers to their “hippies and black people said mean things about us” counter-demonstrations against peaceful protestors. SPOG might even have to hire private security employees to beat the daylight out of people who have the gall to flip off the SPOG headquarters building. If any of you are ACTUALLY concerned about community policing, maybe you can start suggesting they allocate their resources to community policing, and not pepper spraying children.

  • Aziz October 16, 2020 (12:31 pm)

    I really don’t see the issue here.  Seattle is starting to realize the police-less utopia that we’ve been hoping for?Can someone help me understand what the Mayor and City Leaders’  problem is?  This outcome has been their desire all along and exactly what they’ve been fighting for.  When they run for re-election, they should state with pride the number of Seattle Police members before and after 2020, and let the voters decide if they’re in agreement with the real world outcome.

  • dsa October 16, 2020 (1:04 pm)

    Why stay where there is no future and no support from your employer?

  • WS2000 October 16, 2020 (1:07 pm)

    It’s a fallacy that more police officers = greater safety.  We’ve been sold that bucket of lies by police unions and scare-mongering politicians beginning with Reagan, and there’s no evidence at all to support it.  And there’s plenty of evidence to show that more police officers = more Black and Brown Americans traumatized and killed at the hands of the police.  So yes, if the Council returns and shows fewer officers at the next election, I for one will be grateful.

    • Beth October 16, 2020 (5:44 pm)

      Prove your statements with facts. I’ll be waiting right here…

      • John October 16, 2020 (10:31 pm)

        It’s going to be a very long wait.

    • LR October 16, 2020 (11:18 pm)

      WS2000 was clearly joking.  Obviously they weren’t possibly being serious. 

  • Sarchka October 16, 2020 (1:27 pm)

    Agree with other commentators here… who on earth, even someone steeped in the social justice movement and all the moral principles one could ask for, would want to go to work every single day in a city full of people who want you gone? Nobody, that’s who. Plenty of other places to work with better morale and less threat to personal safety. 

    • North Delridge October 16, 2020 (3:14 pm)

      Well when you’re peacefully protesting and the police tear gas you and the surrounding community, shoot you with rubber bullets (they almost killed a girl doing this!) and use other similar tactics, what do you expect.  I watched night after night of the pre-CHOP protests where protestors lined up peacefully next to east precinct and each night the police were able to provoke themselves into declaring the assembly a riot and using so much tear gas that people in surrounding apartments had to take an infant to the hospital.  They have lied over and over all year too.  I wish we had good police, that should be a bedrock in any community but this department spends so much of it’s time antagonizing the city’s citizens and has a long history of bad practices.  Why should it be incumbent on the taxpayers to respect them after what they’ve done?

  • Question Mark October 16, 2020 (2:45 pm)

    I imagine that it must physically be pretty tiresome to be called out to disrupt protests through physical force. And given that many of the officers that left the department in September had been on the force for 5 years or less, it could well be disappointment the ideals of “protect and serve” that drew them to law enforcement in the first place which is a major determining factor.

  • Brian October 16, 2020 (4:34 pm)

    Let me find my tiny violin for them        

  • ScubaFrog October 16, 2020 (6:37 pm)

    Trying to burn a police officer alive is abhorrent, there’s no adjective for it because it’s so offensive to humanity.  Whoever did this should be put in prison for a long, long time. Trying to tie that horrible, horrible act to all Seattleites and politicians in Seattle is abhorrent as well.    Equating Seattleites to isis or the taliban is where the far right immediately lose credibility.  At some point, we have to find sanity and moderate voices.  It’s easy to react emotionally to such things, I know I have in the past.  The fact is that we need police.  Not all are bad, in fact the majority are good, particularly the SW Precinct.  We need police reform unilaterally in America.  The need for reform is not a reflection on all police, but the minority of them who haven’t towed the line.  Retaining good officers will be the Mayor and Chief’s job – if the Chief can’t do it, the buck stop’s with the Mayor (who’s failed this city more times than any of us can count).

    • Sup October 16, 2020 (8:41 pm)

      According to the police blotter, the guy was waving a flaming piece of lumber around before the police even showed up.  Then when they showed up and confronted him, he lobbed it at them, it landed in the car while an officer was in it.  He got out and was treated for minor burns.  The car did become engulfed in flames, but not until after the police were out of it (they were arresting the man in a nearby parking garage by then).  While this man surely seems to have some mental health issues and is in need of help, you’re really misrepresenting the facts (as published by SPD) in saying he was trying to burn someone alive.  I agree extremes aren’t helpful… and that includes repeating Bob’s disingenuous account of that encounter.  

  • Chris October 16, 2020 (6:37 pm)

    This is what the majority of citizens living in Seattle want. They kept people in office that push this agenda and nobody should be surprised by the results of that decision. If you want change then elect different people next time. I would wager that none of this would have happened during an election year. No way!! They build and repair roads during election years, then go back to their agenda after the vote is counted.

  • Chris October 16, 2020 (6:58 pm)

    This is what the majority of citizens living in Seattle want. They kept people in office that push this agenda and nobody should be surprised by the results of that decision. If you want change then elect different people next time. I would wager that none of this would have happened during an election year. No way!!  They build and repair roads during election years, then go back to their agenda.

    • Barton October 17, 2020 (11:43 am)

      Unfortunately for her voters CM Herbold professed that she was in favor of adding police officers prior to her re-election.

  • alki_2008 October 16, 2020 (7:33 pm)

    allocated for mental health professionals, substance disorder professionals, domestic-violence professionals, violence disruptors, and others

    Serious question.  Are there enough people in these occupations/roles to fulfill the needs of a large city like Seattle?  It’s obviously not easy work and requires people that have specific training.  I’m guessing that such people are not just sitting at home waiting for a job to open up, so if they are already employed and busy then where are these types of professionals going to come from? Will the city have to lure them away from their current employers, and if so then that doesn’t bode well for the people they currently assist.

  • Medium October 16, 2020 (7:50 pm)

    You’re not punishing the police by cutting their funding. Your hurting the people that need police services the most. If you have lived a privileged life and haven’t needed an emergency response you can count yourself lucky. For those that will need help in the future just tell them to “hold on”, might be a few more minutes if the police respond at all. The “bad apples” aren’t the ones getting scooped up by other agencies. We’re losing the best and the brightest, some before they get out of the academy. You won’t be able to ignore the rise in crime for too much longer.

  • Rhoda October 16, 2020 (10:32 pm)

    I want the Navigation team back. The people on the streets need to be took care of. Until the Council has to deal with them keeping them awake at night. Cussing, breaking into stores, fighting, ect I will get no rest.

  • Canton October 17, 2020 (8:01 am)

    Maybe we should have all of the defund/anti-police people submit their addresses( including councilmembers), to a do not respond list. Since you are deciding for the majority, the limited remaining resources, should be used for the people that appreciate the service.

    • Medium October 17, 2020 (4:44 pm)

      That’s a great idea. Those clamoring for a reduction usually follow up with some minor issue the cops aren’t fixing properly. Opting out should be mandatory.

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