Seattle’s cold, wet month of May may have worked out for Mayor Bruce Harrell. No one is feeling like summer is just around the corner, so maybe we will all forget that the mayor promised a comprehensive police hiring plan “before summer.”
When faced with a crisis, leaders in this town have a strong tendency to haggle about the problem, fiddle with it and drench it in bureaucratic process without getting much accomplished for months and years at a time (think homelessness). Today, the city has a cops crisis — we do not have enough of them — and it is getting worse by the day.
Over the last two years, the Seattle Police Department has lost about a fourth of its officers. In the first three months of 2022, the city had aimed to hire 40 new cops, but only brought in 13. Meanwhile, an additional 43 resigned.
Police response times for serious crimes have lengthened while nobody shows up for the not-so- serious stuff that still is disquieting citizens. Crime investigation is suffering, as is community outreach.
Our less-than-eminent city council is locked in debates between those who, not too long ago, wanted to cut the police budget in half and newly elected members who have heard the voters’ pleas for safer streets. The new mayor came into office promising action on a variety of issues and has begun to deliver on removing illegal encampments from parks, but we still await his plan to bring the police department back to adequate staffing.
A sense of urgency is needed because crises rarely go away by themselves, they just get bigger and even harder to fix.
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