the Seattle Police Department continues to lose more officers and hire fewer than expected. What if something should/can be done about it? This question was at the heart of the latest SPD staff briefing, presented to the city council this morning Public Safety and Social Services Committeechaired by West Seattle/South Park Councilmember Lisa Herbold.
Overall, the committee was told, “the trend is not particularly good.” Here are the figures presented by the analyst Greg Dos:
We first mentioned the report last Friday when it was released; we noted that the Southwest neighborhood, which covers West Seattle and South Park, had lost more sworn staff in the past year — both in number and percentage — than other precincts. (Our questions immediately sent to the SPD and Herbold remain unanswered.) The discussion at today’s meeting was not as detailed. The question was what to do about the continued decline in membership – or whether anything should be done. This was a point of acute disagreement between some of the board members. Member of the city council Therese Mosque (a West Seattle resident) pointed out that research has shown that many calls handled by the police can be handled by other types of responders. Yes, but, asked the council member Alex Pedersen, does the city have these alternative speakers available today? “No,” replied Doss. Recently elected member of the city council Sarah Nelson, which is pushing to restore hiring incentives, asked: “Are we happy with the status quo? Do we agree to do nothing? I’m not.” In response to a comment that other cities are also having problems with hiring, Nelson wondered if other cities are having problems with departures as well as hiring.
Acting Chief of Police Adrian Diaz, also present at the online meeting, said the current staffing situation was causing ‘attrition’ as nearly every shift has to be ‘increased’ with officers working overtime just to meet minimum levels . Response times continue to increase, with “priority 2” calls taking up to half an hour, with “priority 3” calls taking an average of a full hour, he said.
While Nelson is propose a resolution expressing support for hiring bonuses/incentives, Herbold is propose a bill offering money to cover moving expenses for officers hired outside of Seattle — and for some other types of city employees; in the ongoing discussion of the SPD’s staffing challenges, she countered that other departments are also facing critical staffing issues. (This meeting document enters council member proposals, as well as data, including what other cities offer.)
Nelson continued to advocate for hiring bonuses: “If we don’t do this, what else are we going to do? … I don’t see how we’re going to get to 98 new hires this year if we’ve only had 13 so far. She wanted to continue the discussion, but Herbold cut her off, the item having gone on for over an hour – twice the allotted time – and with two other items on the agenda, including another hot topic (the PayUp proposal for app-based workers). No vote was scheduled for today, so the discussion will likely continue when this committee meets again next month.