In a shocking turn of event that ultimately surprises no one, the Seattle Police Department did not meet their response time goals in 2020 due to budget cuts and an unprecedented number of officers resigning.
Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz and his staff explained their struggle with response times to the Seattle City Council’s Public Safety and Human Services Committee on Tuesday in an effort to dissuade further cuts from the police budget.
The police department’s goal response time for priority 1 calls (mainly life threatening situations) is seven minutes while the goal for priority 2 calls (dangerous but not life-threatening situations) is 15 minutes. But ever since May 2020, when police departments in cities across the country were targeted with accusations of racial profiling, the police department has not been able to meet either of these goals, citing an 8-minute average response time to priority 1 calls and an average response time to priority 2 calls that maxed out at a troubling 24 minutes in August and June.
“Seven minutes is a long time when you need somebody right now. And the more officers we lose, the more that number will go up,” Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan (D) told KIRO 7.
A stunning 186 officers resigned from the Seattle Police Department in 2020, a steep increase compared to the average of 56 officers that have left the force each year for the past two decades. In their exit interviews, many of the officers attributed their resignation to the city council’s slashing of the police budget following months of protests over George Floyd’s death.
The police department was only able to fill 51 of the 186 vacancies.
“So many people have left the department and we are so hamstrung in our ability to hire back, it is starting to really have risks to public safety and our obligations under the consent decree," Durkan told Komo News.
Police Chief Diaz added that during 221 days of 2020, his department had to strongly prioritize responding to priority 1 and priority 2 calls, meaning there was little to no police response to lesser crimes during these days. Due to the lack of available officers, Diaz was forced to move 100 officers from specialized units to patrol.
“We will have to say no for requests for service, something we have already had to do this year,” he said.
The Seattle City Council last year agreed to give the police department an additional $5.4 million to help cover overtime pay racked up during protests in 2020. Despite the obvious impact that budget cuts and resignations have had on the police response time in the community, city officials have pledged to cut the same amount from the budget this year.
Seattle isn't the only city whose police departments is struggling to keep up with demand while under strain from politicians seeking to appease the mob. In Minneapolis, city residents soon began complaining of a sudden spike in crime - and long wait times for police to respond - after city officials agreed to slash millions in funding from the Minneapolis Police Department to satisfy demands from groups like Black Lives Matter.