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Seattle police need about 400 more officers for public safety, chief says

Currently, the Seattle Police Department has about 1,015 deployable officers.

SEATTLE — The Seattle Police Department’s (SPD) interim chief Adrian Diaz thinks the department needs 1,400 officers to properly respond to the city’s public safety needs. Currently, the department has about 1,015.

Diaz discussed his vision for Seattle’s police force and programs aimed at improving the department’s relationship with the community during an interview Thursday with KING 5.

He said that for incidents like shots fired calls, robberies, aggravated assaults and any incident that requires officers to respond and conduct investigations, the department needs 1,400 officers.

“We look across the country about, you know, about the growing rates of violent crime, and we have risen just like other cities have. But we’ve also seen 325 less officers in this department,” Diaz said.

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As for shootings, 2021 has already seen more shots fired calls, non-fatal shootings and fatal shootings than each of the previous nine years, according to SPD data.

Diaz said that every 50 officers below his goal of 1,400, Seattle residents can expect an additional one minute to their response time.

However, efforts persist to cut SPD’s budget and staffing, some of which have materialized through the Seattle City Council’s budget discussions as well as the recent election, with some candidates campaigning on defunding the department by 50%.

Others, like Mayor-elect Bruce Harrell and Mayor Jenny Durkan, continue to point at the results of the Nov. 2 election as the public’s way of saying it doesn’t want any more cuts to policing.

On Thursday, the city council narrowly defeated a budget proposal to cut 101 positions from SPD. If it had passed, the proposal would have dropped the department’s overall force to 1,256 sworn full-time employees.

Diaz said the department lost about 325 officers in 2020 amid the unrest and calls to defund the police, saying, “For an officer that’s got family, that’s got, you know, kids or whatever, it’s hard for that officer to say, ‘Oh shoot, I don’t know if I’m going to come to Christmas, and I’m not going to have a job.”

Meanwhile, Diaz said he and the rest of the department are pushing forward on a relational policing model that focuses on officer wellness, growth and connecting with the community. Diaz said this model will be implemented on officers as new recruits prior to training at the police academy.

“I think these initiatives will help build the resiliency of young officers to deal with the traumas that they've experienced in the job but also really have a good connection with community members and really push forward on, on integrating ourselves back into the community that last year, you know, we found there was a huge level of distrust,” Diaz said.

Diaz said that opportunity to work with newly elected city officials as well as new recruits and lateral hires has him optimistic about the future.

“I'm hoping that we can get some laterals in because that's a quicker level of deployment. I'm hoping for brand new recruits where we can focus their efforts on really building those connections with community,” he said. “So, it's a really great opportunity right now. I feel like it's the opportune time for a real shift in the department for the next five years.”