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Record number of Seattle police have left the department, ‘morale is not good’
Seattle police are fleeing the department at a record pace: At least 249 people have left the force in the past year alone, according to a new report. The department saw a drop from 1,276 uniformed members at the end of February 2020 to 1,027 at the end of February, according to a Fox News report. “Morale is not good, and that’s because we don’t have the political support of our elected officials,” Seattle Police Officers Guild president Mike Solan told Fox News. “And as we see officers fleeing this area, it is a direct result of this lack of political support.” Solan told the agency that last week 66 officers left the force so far in 2021. The record drop is a growing continuation of a pre-existing downward trend in the number of officers from strength in the liberal city. In 2018, the department had 1,367 uniformed officers. Solan said officials did an about-face to support the police department after George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis last year. While Seattle officials “publicly applauded” the SPD as “the model for reform” before Floyd’s death, “those same politicians couldn’t get away from us any faster,” he said. “And that doesn’t mean that we are devoid of any sort of fault in the post-Floyd riots because of the tactics employed by the department,” Solan said, adding that there were “lessons learned”. He noted that as “hundreds” of Seattle police officers were injured in the riots, elected officials blamed the officers “for being the instigators,” further discouraging members of the force. “I think that the general anti-police sentiment has really accelerated the aspirations of separation of the police officers in this city,” he added, referring to retirements or resignations. Earlier this week, Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz said the department was at “an all time high” with only “1,080 deployable officers.” “It’s the lowest I’ve seen in our department,” Diaz told KING5. Meanwhile, crime in the city is on the rise: Diaz released a public note in January saying 50 people were murdered last year, a 61% increase from the previous year and “the most large number of murders in 26 years ”. According to SPD statistics, the city has already experienced 1,047 violent crimes this year, with 7 murders and 614 aggravated assaults. While Solan and other reports suggested that the city’s anti-police climate contributed to the officers’ decision to leave, the mayor’s office claimed it was the result of “continuing budget uncertainty”. Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office told Fox News in a statement that the ministry had “placed more emphasis on recruiting and retention” but “continues to lose sworn officers at a record rate due to the ‘persistent fiscal uncertainty’. “Community safety means that we have officers capable of responding to 911 calls with more civilian responses, more crisis responses and more alternatives,” the statement continued. “From exit interviews, we know that threats of continued layoffs or board cutbacks have a direct impact on decisions to leave the ministry. Mayor Durkan continues to warn city council not to make additional one-off cuts without addressing the hiring and retention of agents, especially miscellaneous agents, to answer the highest priority calls.