Spikes in crime, departing officers points to a need to hire more officers, says Nelson
Seattle, WA – Councilmember Sara Nelson (Position 9 – Citywide) put forward a resolution today supporting the development of a Seattle Police Department (SPD) staffing incentives program and stating the Council’s intent to lift a restriction on anticipated 2022 SPD salary savings to fund the program. The resolution would lay the groundwork for Council to pass an ordinance lifting a budget proviso and a subsequent ordinance allowing the implementation of a staffing incentives program at the Seattle Police Department later this year.
Data show increasing rates of crime in every Seattle district. According to the Seattle Police Department 2021 Year-End Crime Report, incidents of violent crime increased by 20 percent, including a 24 percent increase in aggravated assaults and incidents of property crime increased by nine percent, including a 31 percent increase in incidents of arson. Year-to-date non-fatal shootings have increased 354 percent compared to 2021 and fatal shootings have increased 166 percent.
“Our police force has been losing officers for the past two years. Response times are increasing and crime has been surging. Since January 2020, we’ve lost 360 in-service officers, a 28% reduction in force,” said Councilmember Nelson, “Many other cities in the region have implemented some form of staffing incentive and we need to do the same to compete on a level playing field. The local labor market is tight so we have to be able to recruit people from out of state and incentives could help with those relocation costs.”
“A staffing incentive program is our opportunity to harness real change and rebuild our police department,” said Council President, Debora Juarez (District 5 – North Seattle). “Rebuilding starts by hiring the next generation of police officers – officers who believe in a community-first approach, reflect our diversity, and lead with their love for our city, its people, and their belief in our bright future together.”
Mayor Durkan implemented hiring and retention bonuses by Executive Order in the fall of 2021 which resulted in double the number of applicants for open positions. Council ended those incentives on December 31, 2021 and the number of applications and hires has declined, as was indicated in the March 22 committee meeting (approx. minute 51:00). In addition, the 2022 budget adopted by Council includes Council Budget Action SPD 003-B-001, a budget proviso restricting the Seattle Police Department’s use of anticipated 2022 salary and benefits savings unless authorized by a future ordinance. This resolution calls for lifting that restriction to fund a staffing incentives program.
“The Seattle Police Department has seen significant staffing losses,” said Interim Police Chief Adrian Z. Diaz. “We need to hire great people who want to serve our city. Retaining SPD personnel and hiring the next generation of police officers are essential for Seattle to thrive. These incentives will help us be competitive with the surrounding agencies and nationally.”
“Councilmembers must remember the oath they took to uphold the Charter by providing adequate police protection across the city,” said Reverend Harriett Walden, Founder of Mothers For Police Accountability. “The health and safety of the people are at stake and now is the time to rebuild and restore Seattle.”
“We’re in the middle of a public safety crisis. We don’t have enough police on the street to address it. And this is one way we know to fix that problem,” said Erin Goodman, Director of the SODO Business Improvement Area.“People in Seattle deserve to feel safe where they live and work. The City has a legal obligation to provide a fully staffed and accountable police department. Councilmember Nelson’s resolution is about getting back to the basics of local government and keeping residents and businesses safe”
About Councilmember Nelson: Sara brings a pragmatic, collaborative approach to addressing our current challenges and improving quality of life for all Seattleites. Originally from California, Sara moved to Seattle in 1990 to pursue a doctorate in Cultural Anthropology at the University of Washington, earning her Ph.D. in 1997. She taught courses in anthropology, women studies, and international studies before leaving academia to have a greater impact on her community in public service. Sara got her start in local politics as a City Council Legislative Aide in 2002 and served through 2013 but left City Hall to help launch her family business, Fremont Brewing, in 2009. Sara lives in Green Lake with her husband and two teen-aged sons.