Report: Record number of Seattle police officers leave the department

A new report shows that a record-high number of Seattle Police Department officers are leaving the department.

Thirty-nine officers quit or retired just last month, and 110 have left this year. That number is higher than in any year since at least 2012, the department said.

“We are losing an unprecedented number of officers, which makes it even more critical that we recruit and retain officers committed to reform and community policing that reflect the diversity and values of our city,” Mayor Jenny Durkan said in a statement.

The numbers come in the midst of a citywide conversation about cuts to the department and the role of policing.

According to the report, 39 officers or officers in training “separated” from the department in September, while another 14 officers were on extended leaves. The report noted that is a decrease from 1,247 to 1,203 officers in a single month. That’s compared to average of five to seven departures in previous Septembers.

“Well-trained officers are fleeing because of a lack of support from our elected officials, from our council level, that are pandering to the activist mob on a false narrative about the great men and women who do the job of policing,” said Mike Solan of the Seattle Police Officers Guild.

City Council public safety chair Lisa Herbold said the 110 departures so far this year are 11 more officers than SPD projected would retire or resign in all of 2020, noting however in a statement that “one month’s data is not a trend.”

Seattle University criminology professor Jacqueline Helfgott noted the departure of younger officers now leaving for other departments.

Helfgott said recent recruits are more likely to be women, or people of color, and generally have had more education. They are also trained under a philosophy of officers as guardians, rather than warriors.

“These are officers who have gone into policing to help communities, who have gone into policing to make the world a better place and to change the way justice has been done,” Helfgott said. “These are the officers who we do not want to lose from the Seattle Police Department.”

Helfgott described the level of attrition as “astonishing” and pointed to the projections showing the number of SPD officers continuing to decline.

“The projection shows that we will be at a staffing level lower than at any time in history, any generation has seen, relative to the population,” she said.

The SPD report also noted that 911 response times have been increasing, but dropped a bit more recently after Chief Adrian Diaz shifted more officers to patrol.

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