Police reform advocates: We need more officers in Seattle!
May 12, 2022
Seattle needs more police, and police reform. These two concepts are not at odds. Some want you to believe that fully staffing the police department and enacting police reform can’t be accomplished together.
We don’t buy that.
Thankfully, police reform advocates themselves aren’t buying it, either.
In a recent Seattle Times guest column, Harriett Walden, Terrell Elmore, and Victoria Beach wrote that the City Council should support Councilmember Sara Nelson’s resolution to use existing public safety funds to re-staff the police department. Walden is the founder of Mothers for Police Accountability, Elmore is a coach for youth football program CD Panthers, while Beach chairs the Seattle Police Department African American Community Advisory Council.
“We need more trained police investigators on the job full time, not less,” they wrote. “For officers already in the department contemplating leaving Seattle, passage of this resolution will be a signal that this city values them and their service.”
Nelson’s resolution was examined by the Public Safety & Human Services Committee earlier this week. The committee consists of five members, including:
- Chair: Lisa Herbold (206) 684-8801
- Vice Chair: Andrew Lewis (206) 684-8807
- Member: Teresa Mosqueda (206) 684-8808
- Member: Alex Pedersen (206) 684-8804
- Member: Sara Nelson (206) 684-8809
The committee overwhelmingly voted to recommend Nelson’s resolution to the entire City Council for a vote! In a statement Nelson wrote that “we must use every means at our disposal to hire more officers – quickly! – and my resolution calls for the development of a staffing incentives program to accelerate SPD’s recruitment efforts. Every other jurisdiction in our region has put in place hiring incentives and Seattle must do the same in order to compete for a limited pool of applicants.”
Make Your Voice Heard!
Contact Lisa Herbold and thank her for supporting Councilmember Nelson’s resolution to use existing funds to hire more officers.
The Seattle Times guest column highlighted shocking statistics – nonfatal shootings are now up 354 percent compared to 2021, while fatal shootings have jumped by 16 percent during the same timeframe.
What these crime statistics don’t tell you is that these shootings occur in low-income neighborhoods and among communities where there’s been concern about police accountability. Rather than help rebuild relationships between these residents and the SPD through dialogue and/or meaningful reform measures, city leaders have demoralized the police and left those people vulnerable to criminals who are not held accountable by the current justice system.
A safe Seattle would have low crime because the police department is fully staffed and equipped to handle regular patrols and response to incidents, but also because there’s a level of trust between law-abiding citizens and officers whom they interact with daily. Cooperation from residents is often crucial in solving crimes and tracking down suspects, yet that can’t exist if the public thinks, rightly or not, that they have as much to fear from the police as they do criminals. Holding officers accountable who engage in misconduct or abuse their authority ensures that trust is maintained.
But the recent “Defund the Police” movement didn’t seek to restore trust. It painted policing overall as something to abolish entirely. While efforts to gut police funding from the city budget failed, the rhetoric from City Hall combined with a total lack of support during the 2020 riots and CHAZ incident made it clear that many elected officials see all police officers as the enemy and a greater threat to the public than criminals.
The outcome wasn’t hard to predict. Officers left Seattle by the hundreds while serial offenders have been allowed to run rampant against both residents and small businesses.
Radio talk show host Jason Rantz recently revealed that the Seattle police department has less than 900 officers to cover a city of 741,000 people, with the goal of hiring up to 1,400. In comparison, the city of Boston has 2,139 officers for a city of 665,258 residents.
The degradation in public safety affects more than businesses. The Seattle Times guest column noted recent shootings that have occurred at children’s football games. No child should live in fear of police misconduct, but they also shouldn’t have to fear getting randomly shot in the middle of a football game. It’s not only a sad state of affairs that this occurs, but it is absurd to think that addressing one of those should come at the expense of the other.
Wanting an effective police force doesn’t mean you want officers who can do whatever they want with no consequences or act like an occupying military force. Concerns about police abuse doesn’t mean you want to let criminals run wild. But the fringe ideology arguing just that was embraced by too many in City Hall in the past several years, and the effects are being felt by the very people they claimed they’re trying to protect.
Police reform advocates and others who experience the consequences of these flawed policies understand this, which is why they’re calling for more officers on the streets.
We need to ensure Nelson’s proposal gets the whole City Council’s support, so SPD can start the long-needed process of fully staffing its stations.