Report says Seattle Police Department needs more officers

New reaction now on a long-awaited report released Friday that says Seattle needs close to 200 more police officers and soon.

SEATTLE -- A report released late Friday afternoon says Seattle needs close to two hundred more police officers in order to keep up with the demands of this rapidly growing city.

Mayor Ed Murray received a report conducted by Berkshire Advisors. The report indicates the department needs 175 new officers on the street if SPD wants to achieve a seven-minute response time to "Priority One" calls 90 percent of the time. Eighty-five percent of the officers would be assigned to patrol and the rest would be spread out over other police work.

Murray released a statement that the report confirms what they've known for some time:  that we need more officers on the street engaged in proactive policing to protect our neighborhoods.  He said he believes the department needs to hire 200 more officers over 2013 staffing levels. 

He also said a tax increase will be needed to pay for additional police officers.

The president of the Seattle Police Officers' Guild says the union that represents the officers has long pushed to increase the size of the force. 

"We need more police officers in uniform in the city of Seattle," said Ron Smith.  "We've been saying for a long time, the rank and file have been saying for a long time, that there's not enough officers assigned to patrol."

But he feels the numbers recommended in the Berkshire report are still a bit low.

"I don't think it's enough.  I really think we need at least 300 to 400 more police officers in patrol," he said.

In a letter to the mayor, Chief O'Toole pointed out that the Berkshire analysis is based on SPD's staffing levels in June of 2015.  She says the department is already well on the way to meeting a goal of hiring a hundred new officers by 2017.

O'Toole also said in the letter that an earlier draft of the report that called for as many as 343 new hires was the result of a mis-calculation that was later corrected.

Smith disagrees.

"I believe they got it right in the first draft," he said.  "If we don't have enough officers to handle the priority one and priority two calls, those lower level calls, the non in-progress calls are going to wait a long time.  And the public gets very upset about that, and rightly so.  When they call the police, the police should respond in a timely fashion."

Mayor Murray has instructed Chief O'Toole to look into finding the right mix of overtime and new officer hiring.  He said that overtime, when used appropriately, can be an effective tool to limit the department's fixed costs.

A final decision regarding the exact number of new hires has yet to be made.

Related links:

Berkshire Advisors - Assessment of sworn staffing needs 

SPD Chief Kathleen O'Toole's cover letter to Murray's staffing study


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