It’s time for the Seattle City Council to do its duty to protect the residents of our city. Council members need to come together and pass Councilmember Sara Nelson’s resolution supporting development of a Seattle Police Department staffing incentives program to accelerate the hiring of new officers. This is the necessary first step in lifting a restriction on anticipated 2022 SPD salary savings to fund the program.
Violent crime is the highest it’s been in 14 years. Aggravated assaults increased by 24% in 2021. Year-to-date nonfatal shootings have increased 354% compared to 2021, and fatal shootings have increased 166%. These statistics represent real lives lost, and of the 14 homicides already this year, more than half of the victims were Black.
Sacred spaces within the Black community have increasingly fallen victim to gunfire. On Sept. 25 last year, shots were fired at the Judkins Park playfield, home of the CD Panthers youth football teams, traumatizing the 8– and 9-year-old players and their families. We were there, and we’re grateful for the police department’s quick response and officers’ continued presence at games.
The Seattle Police Department has lost 383 in-service officers (representing a 28% reduction in deployable force) since January 2020. When patrol-officer counts are too low, SPD is forced to resort to “emergency mobilizations” requiring sworn trained investigators such as homicide detectives to respond to 911 calls. This means that even more homicide cases will remain unsolved, a category that includes far more Black victims than any other racial group. That translates into less healing and less justice for the many families of Black victims whose cases remain unsolved. We need more trained police investigators on the job full time, not less.
Councilmember Nelson correctly points out that many other cities in the region have implemented some form of hiring or retention incentive. If we want to compete for the most talented, effective and community-focused officers, Seattle needs to do the same. The money to pay for hiring bonuses is already in SPD’s budget — all council has to do is authorize its use for this purpose. For officers already in the department contemplating leaving Seattle, passage of this resolution will be a signal that this city values them and their service.
The current situation in our city is unacceptable. It’s time the voices in communities most impacted by violence are heard. We call on council members to uphold their oath to abide by the Seattle City Charter which states: “There shall be maintained adequate police protection in each District of the City.” That starts by passing Councilmember Nelson’s resolution lifting the proviso and providing SPD with the tools it needs to hire and train enough patrol officers to reduce violent crime and enhance justice. We are One Seattle, and we deserve a safe city.