November 3, 2021

Seattle Comes Crawling Back to Its Cops

The city’s shabby treatment of its police force has left it less safe and lacking in law enforcement.

Ronald Reagan was no economist, but his understanding of — and his ability to crisply communicate — bedrock economic principles was unmatched among politicians. “If you want more of something,” he often said, “subsidize it. If you want less of something, tax it.” How simple. And who can deny it?

Had Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan studied up on the Gipper, she might’ve learned this valuable lesson the easy way rather than the hard way. Instead, during last year’s Summer of Rage, she and her Seattle City Council taxed their city’s police officers something fierce. And, lo and behold, her city now has fewer cops and less law and order.

In a Civil Emergency Order replete with 17 Whereases and a single “Be it proclaimed,” Durkan announced her plan to address the staffing crisis within the Seattle Police Department and its 911 dispatch center. As Seattle’s KING-TV reports, “Experienced officers and 911 dispatchers could get a $25,000 hiring bonus, and rookie new hires could get $10,000” — if they can stomach working within an organization that seems to neither value nor respect them.

According to Durkan’s order, the Seattle PD “had 310 vacancies as of July 2021. SPD has only hired 62 officers thus far in 2021, which combined with a loss of 141 officers in the same timeframe exacerbating [sic] the staffing shortage that began in 2020.”

Why the staffing shortage? It’s not hard to figure out. As the Seattle Police Officers Guild, which represents some 1,300 officers and sergeants, put it, Durkan and her anti-cop colleagues “politically betrayed” their police force during the George Floyd riots of 2020. “The result of this betrayal,” said Guild President Mike Solan, “has caused 350 police officers to flee Seattle since the riots. Many of these former police employees left for lower paying agencies just to escape Seattle’s toxic political climate.”

The Seattle City Council’s efforts to radically defund their cops was just one glaring example of this betrayal. Durkan’s handling of the city’s “autonomous” CHOP/CHAZ zone during the riots and for weeks afterward was another. Who knew that a six-block “Summer of Loveprotest appeasement zone, which included an abandoned police precinct in the Capitol district, would rub the city’s cops the wrong way?

Solan, though, was far from finished with Durkan and her ilk:

We also have another 100 officers now off the street due to the Mayor’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate and another 130 officers currently unavailable for service who are out on extended leave. When totaled, that is just under half the department gone/unavailable in almost two years. Seattle’s current police staffing crisis was caused by our current politicians and sadly it all could’ve been avoided. This political betrayal will forever be their legacy.

What did Durkan think was going to happen? When a city makes its cops feel like second-class citizens, those cops will go elsewhere. And the results have been deadly serious: In 2020, Seattle recorded its highest murder total within the past 26 years, and violent crime has continued to rise this year.

What’s more, even if Seattle does make up its cop shortage, it won’t happen overnight. Durkan herself acknowledges this, albeit a bit late in the game: “Hiring, recruiting, and training takes months,” she said, “and we need to act now to ensure we can have trained and deployable staff. Seattle cannot keep waiting to address the real public safety officer hiring and retention crisis we are experiencing.”

The city’s police union concurs, but, it says, “Dangling money to recruit new or lateral hires won’t get the job done.”

Indeed, cops don’t grow on trees. Nor do they need to put down roots and risk their lives in communities whose elected leaders demonize them. Had the city of Seattle treated its law enforcement officers with more respect beforehand, it might not now be in the humiliating position of begging them to come back.

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