Seattle, WA – The mayor of Seattle wildly miscalculated her pitch at a Seattle Police Officer’s Guild meeting when she referred to the officers from the Port of Seattle Police Department as “mall cops.”
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan made the insulting comparison at a union meeting as she tried to convince a standing-room only audience of Seattle police that its officers were not, in fact, leaving in droves, KTTH reported.
Durkan tried to convince Seattle police officers to stay with the department by telling them Seattle PD was where the action was, and that the city was the only viable place to be a police officer.
But her timing was way off for most of her audience.
“It’s disappointing and sad,” one officer told KTTH. “I’ve worked here my entire career and I never thought of leaving until I retired. Now, it seems there’s nothing to stay for.”
Another officer said that the mayor had missed the irony of calling the Port police “mall cops” at a time when disgruntled Seattle officers have begun referring to themselves as mall security.
“I think [Mayor Durkan] was trying to sell SPD on ‘this is where the action is,’” he explained to KTTH. “It was however quickly brought to her attention, that more than ever, SPD officers are feeling more and more like mall cops because our hands are tied for so many different reasons.”
He said she made the unfortunate comparison to a well-respected veteran officer who had just told the mayor “that he feels like a mall cop in today’s environment due to our hands being tied.”
“It backfired… it absolutely did,” another officer told KTTH. “She called Port of Seattle cops ‘mall cops’ that don’t really do real police work. She was trying to make it sound like the only place you can make a difference is in Seattle. You can’t make a difference anywhere else. She (said that she) ran into a Port of Seattle officer and she knew they left SPD… and referred to them as a joke.”
Her comments fell flat in a room of officers who were considering their own futures with the Seattle PD.
“They are a police agency, not ‘mall cops,’” the officer explained to KTTH. “It’s insulting. She was trying to say we need to stay here and slam any other options that you have. And, it’s actually a pretty good option because of healthcare and pay.”
In fact, a number of Seattle PD officers who resigned have made their way over to the Port Police and other nearby agencies in Tacoma, Everett, and Bellevue.
Bellevue Officer Seth Tyler told KTTH that their department has had seven Seattle officers apply in the week since Bellevue police announced a $16,000 signing bonus for qualified, lateral moves to its department.
“Several more have told us that they are waiting for the outcome of the city council vote … and will make a decision based on the outcome of that vote,” Officer Tyler said.
The premise of the mayor’s entire speech seemed off to most Seattle police, who were well aware that their own department has been hemorrhaging officers at an alarming rate.
Durkan’s visit to the police union, accompanied by Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best, was advertised as an update on the pending police contract, but officers complained to KTTH afterwards that she had nothing new to tell them.
Instead, officers characterized the mayor’s speech as politically-motivated and fraught with incorrect information.
Durkan claimed Seattle police were not leaving the department in the numbers that were being reported, according to KTTH.
In July, she countered stories about the high number of resignations with claims that the Seattle Police Department was hiring more officers than it was losing.
Unfortunately, her data at that time was already bad, and reflected just the opposite, KTTH reported. Since then, the problem has only grown.
At the end of September, Seattle PD had already lost 82 officers, 31 of which were straight-out resignations and not budgeted-for retirements.
The department had hired 70 new people as of September, but those new recruits still need to be trained and will not be policing in the field for a long time.
The officers who are feeling the staffing shortages firsthand were not bamboozled by the mayor’s characterization of the situation, KTTH reported.
“She knows people are leaving but she did fuzzy math [to claim no mass exodus],” an officer at the meeting told KTTH. “She said not as many people are leaving and that [media] have their information wrong, despite being understaffed in most precincts.”
The ongoing contract negotiations, coupled with Durkan’s support for a controversial November ballot initiative the removed officers’ protection from criminally liability in the course of doing their jobs, has many officers rethinking their employment status and commitment to the Seattle PD.
“Some officers will stay and fly under the radar — self-preservation mode,” an officer told KTTH. “Then there’s the other officers that would rather cut the ties with Seattle, go get paid more, do the career they were called to do, wait for the retro check to come in the mail from the City of Seattle when they finally sign the contract and retire at an agency that respects, appreciates and trusts them.”
The Seattle mayor and her communications staff have tried to play off the “mall cop” remark as a joke, rather than an insult to the Port of Seattle police.
“In answering a question about officers being recruited by neighboring jurisdictions, I repeated my belief that we have the best-trained, best-qualified officers in the country and discussed the caliber of the work delivered by Seattle Police officers,” Durkan wrote in a statement to KTTH after she got blowback for her “mall cop” remarks.
“During the discussion, I made an offhand jest about why I thought SPD offered the most challenging but most rewarding work of any local departments. It was never meant to impugn the hard work of a neighboring jurisdictions that keep our region safe and assist Seattle in a myriad of ways every day,” she continued.
“I tremendously admire the work our local law enforcement does day in and day out to keep us safe,” the mayor told KTTH.