Violent crimes in Seattle have surged since the government defund the police two years ago.(Seattle Police Department)
The Seattle Police Department (SPD) is currently facing a severe staffing crisis, with the number of officers reaching its lowest levels since 1991, even as crime rates rise.
According to a copy of the mayor’s 2024 budget proposal obtained by KOMO News, “The city’s police staffing crisis, now in its third year, has resulted in only 937 police officers available for deployment in the city as of August 31, 2023, the lowest number of in-service officers since 1991 and significantly below per-capita staffing relative to similarly situated jurisdictions.”
However, since the 1990s, Seattle’s population has grown by approximately 200,000 people, according to the US Census Bureau, leaving the city with only 1.3 officers per 1,000 residents.
The FBI recommends an average officer-to-resident ratio for cities of similar size to Seattle at 2.6 officers per 1,000 residents. While other cities of similar size like Denver (1.9 officers per 1,000 residents), Phoenix (1.6 officers per 1,000 residents), and San Francisco (2.2 officers per 1,000 residents) also fall short of the threshold, few are as far behind as Seattle.
Despite recent hiring incentives, the exodus of officers has continued since the City Council began defunding the department in 2020 in response to the BLM and Antifa riots that took place in Seattle following the death of George Floyd. Nearly 600 officers have left the department since 2023.
Although the council has largely backtracked on defunding the police, departures from the department continued in 2023, with 78 officers leaving, while only 49 were hired.
Mike Solan, the president of the Seattle Police Officer Guild, highlighted that Seattle has witnessed more homicides than hired officers.
Meanwhile, despite the ongoing rise in crime, Seattle’s Democrat Mayor Bruce Harrell’s promised officer recruitment plan has yet to take off. In September, the city surpassed the total number of homicides in 2022, with a 7 percent increase in the first half of 2023, putting it on track to surpass the all-time high of homicides.
At the same time, major retailers continue to close their businesses in the city, drawing comparisons to crime-ridden San Francisco.