As summer weather looms and people begin heading to the water, Seattle Police Department’s Harbor Patrol has found itself with a damaged boat and no dedicated budget to fix it.
The Seattle Police Foundation, a nonprofit that looks to improve public safety by funding training and equipment for SPD, is seeking donations to raise $25,000 to repair the boat.
Patrol Boat #4 has a bent shaft and can only go 6-8 knots (about 7-9 mph), said Cherie Skager, president and CEO of the Seattle Police Foundation. Once repaired, the boat should be able to reach 32 knots (just under 37 mph), she said. The boat’s damage was brought to the foundation’s attention in the fall.
Skager said Harbor Patrol does not have money in its budget to fund the repairs. However, Seattle City Councilmember Lisa Herbold noted that as of April 26, SPD still had $1.5 million remaining for discretionary purchases.
According to the foundation, it has purchased bike training and equipment, medical supplies and, since 2003, patrol dogs for SPD’s canine unit.
“With the current staffing crisis at SPD, we at the foundation … want to make sure that they have access to all the equipment that they need,” she said.
Since 2020, the department has lost 255 police hires and transferred dozens of officers from specialty and investigative units into 911 response, City Council central staff said in an April 26 memo to Seattle’s Public Safety and Human Services Committee.
Harbor Patrol is one of the SPD’s specialty units, which have lost a significant number of sworn officers in the last two years, the memo said.
In total, the number of sworn officers in specialty units has shrunk from 119 officers in August 2020 to 33 as of February, according to the memo.
Last September, a former Seattle port commissioner and two people involved with the Lake Union Liveaboard Association and Sail Sandpoint wrote an op-ed in The Seattle Times urging full funding and staffing of Seattle Harbor Patrol.
“This benign neglect of a critical public safety service on the water is unacceptable. We must restore full funding and staffing of the Seattle Harbor Patrol,” they wrote.
According to SPD, the department’s harbor patrol is the only marine unit with 24-hour operations in the Pacific Northwest and responds to around 6,000 calls annually. Harbor Patrol often only has one boat out in service proactively patrolling Lake Washington, SPD said.
The unit covers 200 miles of the city’s shorelines and helps with rescues and investigates water-related accidents and collisions, according to SPD. The unit also provides assistance during holidays and special events like racing events.
As of Friday afternoon, the fundraiser had raised more than $18,000.