Police response times rise in Seattle

SEATTLE — People calling 911 are waiting longer for Seattle police to arrive, and Mayor Jenny Durkan said an exodus of officers is a big reason why.

On Tuesday, the Seattle Police Department detailed new information about call response times as the City Council considers cutting another $5.4 million from the police budget.

SPD tries to respond to Priority 1 calls, like robberies and shots-fired incidents, within seven minutes, and Priority 2 calls, like assaults no longer in progress, within 15 minutes.

The department hasn’t met either goal since last May.

Response times for Priority 1 calls ran as high as 8.06 minutes in June.

Priority 2 calls topped out at 23.9 minutes in June and August.

SPD stated there were 221 days last year when officers based in at least one precinct couldn’t respond to lower-priority calls at all.

“Seven minutes is a long time when you need somebody right now. And the more officers we lose, the more that number will go up,” Durkan told KIRO 7.

SPD stated over two decades, about 56 officers left every year.

In 2020, 186 left.

Factor in the 51 who were hired, the department is down 135 officers.

In exit interviews, many departing officers blamed the City Council’s defunding effort, which followed weeks of tense protests after the death of George Floyd.

On Tuesday, people called in to a City Council committee meeting, demanding members keep cutting the police budget and use that money for community-chosen investments.

In December, after vowing not to do so, the council agreed to give SPD $5.4 million after it ran up a huge overtime bill in a year of protests.

The council’s plan is to cut that $5.4 million this year.

“I think it’s the wrong time to make a cut right now, and I hope the council slows down and rethinks their approach,” Durkan said.