Seattle police officers are fleeing the department at a record pace: At least 249 people have left the force over the past year alone, according to a new report.
The department saw a drop from 1,276 uniformed members at the conclusion of February 2020 to 1,027 by the end of this February, according to a report by Fox News.
“Morale is not good, and that’s because we don’t have the political support from our elected officials,” Seattle Police Officers Guild President Mike Solan told Fox News. “And as we’re seeing officers flee this area, it’s a direct result of that lack of political support.”
Solan told the outlet that as of last week, 66 officers have left the force so far in 2021.
The record decline is a steepening continuation of a pre-existing downward trend in the number of officers on the force in the liberal city. In 2018, the department had 1,367 uniformed officers.
Solan said public officials had done an about-face in their support of the police department after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last year. While Seattle officials had “publicly applauded” SPD as “the model of reform” prior to Floyd’s death, “these same politicians couldn’t run away from us faster” in the aftermath he said.
“And that’s not saying that we’re devoid of any kind of fault in the riots post-Floyd due to tactics employed by the department,” Solan said, adding that there were “lessons learned.”
He noted that as “hundreds” of Seattle police officers sustained injuries in the riots, elected officials faulted the officers “for being the instigators,” further disheartening members of the force.
“I think that the overall anti-police sentiment has really accelerated the separation aspirations by police officers in this city,” he added, referring to retirements or resignations.
Earlier this week, Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz said the department is at “record lows” with just “1,080 deployable officers.”
“This is the lowest I’ve seen our department,” Diaz told KING5.
Meanwhile, crime in the city is on the rise: Diaz issued a public memo in January saying that 50 people were murdered last year, a 61 percent increase from the year prior and “the highest number of murders in 26 years.”
According to SPD statistics, the city has already seen 1,047 violent crimes this year, with seven murders and 614 aggravated assaults.
While Solan and other reports have suggested the city’s anti-police climate has contributed to officers’ decision to leave, the mayor’s office has claimed it has been the result of “ongoing budget uncertainty.”
Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office told Fox News in a statement that the department has employed “an increased focus on recruitment and retention” but “continues to lose sworn officers at a record pace due to ongoing budget uncertainty.”
“Community safety means that we have officers able to respond to 911 calls with more civilian responses, more crisis responses, and more alternatives,” the statement continued. “Based on exit interviews, we know the Council’s threats of continued layoffs or cuts are having a direct impact on decisions to leave the department. Mayor Durkan continues to caution City Council against making additional one-time cuts without addressing hiring and retention of officers, especially diverse officers, to respond to the highest priority calls.”