Seattle, WA – Morale has gotten so low at the Seattle Police Department that officers are afraid to do their jobs, and they’re leaving the police force.
Records showed that 41 officers left the Seattle PD in the first five months of 2018, meaning they’re likely to exceed last year’s total of 79 departures by quite a bit, KTTH reported.
One officer told KTTH that 21 of his colleagues left, or announced their upcoming separation from the department, over a period of one week recently.
Not all of the officers leaving the department are retiring or getting out of law enforcement. Twenty of the officers who left went to other police departments.
“There are lots of people walking out the door,” another officer told KTTH “This is a mass exodus. We’re losing people left and right. Why stick around when the City Council doesn’t appreciate you? [These officers are] fleeing the ‘Seattle mentality.’”
While Seattle’s population has grown exponentially over the past 40 years, the size of the city’s police force has stayed almost the same, the city’s police union told KCPQ.
“I have never seen the number of officers who are leaving and the way they are leaving,” Seattle Police Guild Vice President Rich O’Neill said.
A police source told KCPQ that younger officers are frustrated over city politics and are departing Seattle for greener pastures.
“Worker bees on the street, they don't feel appreciated. I’ve never seen anything like this in my life,” he said.
The union also called the situation “a mass exodus” and said they believe it will have a direct impact on public safety, KCPQ reported.
“Less officers on the streets, less safe for the citizens -- and when you have all these officers you have invested all this money in and they are leaving for Tacoma, Olympia, Pierce County and Snohomish County,” O’Neill said.
He said that city leaders have sent the message that officers can’t be proactive in their policing, and as a result, many Seattle officers have become afraid to do their jobs.
“It's just depressing to serve in a place where many City Council members who are coming out at times with negative comments about the police,” O’Neill said.
He said officials have allowed certain crimes to go on without accountability, and have discouraged officers from enforcing the law with homeless individuals.
“It’s told from the start it's not a priority, homeless issues also bring with it car prowls, break-ins, open-air drug market, needles all over the ground, it’s the worst I’ve ever seen it,” O’Neill said.
The Seattle Police Guild has been in salary negotiations with the department for three years, meaning officers haven’t received a pay raise in that long. But the union official said that officers weren’t leaving Seattle PD because of the money, KCPQ reported.
“I’ve been here since 1980, I’ve never seen the city in the condition it is in. It’s because it’s been allowed on many levels,” O’Neill said.
One former officer told KTTH that “what’s being done in the SPD is hurting the department and the city.”
“I was being ordered to do less police work,” he said. “They would tell me … not to look for problems. A lot of this comes from there’s more risk with officers being proactive. I got into the job to help people, to make a difference … being a reactionary police department to wait until I was alerted to a problem wasn’t doing Seattle justice.”
Many of the officers who were interviewed complained to KTTH about the Office of Professional Accountability, a civilian-led oversight agency created by the city in 2017.
“The city wants secretaries with badges,” another officer said. “OPA is looking for reasons to suspend and it’s created an environment to not do much and not arrest [criminals].”