BURIEN, Wash. — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday proposed expanding the state's law enforcement training campus in a push to reduce officer shortages and increase agencies' abilities to recruit and retain officers.
On Wednesday, the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC) released a crime report for 2021 which highlighted the state's decrease in police staffing.
The executive director of WASPC said Washington has the lowest per capita rate of officers the state has seen since the association began tracking the data in 1980. It's also the lowest in the nation. The national average per capita rate for officers is 2.33 officers per 1,000, according to the FBI.
On Thursday, Inslee joined local and state law enforcement leaders to announce support for expanding the state Criminal Justice Training Commission (CJTC). The governor's office said new regional training centers would accelerate training and would aid in recruitment efforts.
"Right now we have 134 recruits, who unfortunately have to wait an average of four months just to start this training. That is not acceptable to us," said Inslee.
Currently, every law enforcement officer in the state is trained and certified by CJTC, undergoing a 19-week law enforcement academy in Burien.
An expansion would mean those looking to become law enforcement officers could complete training closer to home at proposed regional facilities instead of commuting to the state's facility in Burien.
"Currently, recruits must attend training just at this location. They've got to travel, they got to be away from their homes and their families," said Inslee. "This has created a logjam in the process. It creates a barrier to recruitment of fine people and we need to do better."
Washington state lost nearly 500 police officers statewide in 2021 as the state's population grew more than the population of Everett, according to the crime report released Wednesday.
The number of commissioned law enforcement officers decreased 4.4%. The per capita rate of law enforcement officers fell to 1.38 per 1,000 statewide.
"Right now, a lot of agencies are treading water. Not every single one. Not every single agency is in a staffing crisis; many are," said Steven Strachan, executive director of WASPC. "These things are problems with solutions, and that is to support good policing and to recognize that public safety is important."