A “mass exodus” of 41 officers from the Seattle Police Department (SPD) has occurred in the first five months of this year, with union leaders blaming the city’s ultra-left politics and anti-police policies.
Seattle Police Guild Vice President Rich O’Neill said the exodus from the Northwest’s most populous city is unprecedented.
“I have never seen the number of officers who are leaving – and the way they are leaving,” O’Neill asserted, according to Seattle’s Q13 Fox News (KCPQ-TV).
More problems, less police
O’Neill’s union reported that even though Seattle’s population is skyrocketing, the number of officers in the SPD is at the same level it was back in the 1970s.
Even though retirements account for about half of the exodus, an unnamed source within the SPD stressed that the other half (20 officers) fled the department to take positions at law enforcement agencies in other cities and counties, as a higher-than-normal number younger officers are departing the force out of frustration about Seattle’s leftist politics.
“Worker bees on the street – they don't feel appreciated,” the SPD source told Q13 News. “I’ve never seen anything like this in my life.”
O’Neill said that the mass exodus will have a detrimental effect on public safety throughout the city.
“Less officers on the streets, less safe for the citizens – and … 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 stated, according to Q13.
Anti-cop, pro-criminal politics
O’Neill impressed that with the criticism and lack of support from local government officials, Seattle police officers have become disillusioned, are afraid to do their jobs and want to pack their bags.
“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 added.
It was further noted by the Seattle Police Guild that local leaders have been ramping up their anti-police rhetoric and agenda of late – a movement that has included many leftist city officials supporting “sanctuary city” laws and bashing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents for arresting criminal illegal aliens.
“The union says Councilmembers Mike O’Brien and Kshama Sawant have been very critical of the police department,” Q13’s Hana Kim recounted. “They say Sawant calling two officers murderers quickly after an officer-involved shooting was inappropriate.”
The source within the police department blasted Seattle’s anti-police politics as a key motivator behind the exodus, noting how a defamation lawsuit against Sawant was filed after she accused officers of cold-bloodedly shooting and killing Che Taylor in 2016 – an incident for which SPD officers have been cleared of any misconduct.
"A city councilmember can call two police officers 'murderers' and the city pays for her legal fees," the SPD source contended,” according to Seattle’s King5 News.
Leftist politics boosting crime
The complaint of not having enough officers to handle calls – particularly for low-level offenses – was waged, with credit for this being given to leading Democrats in Seattle who are anything but tough on crime and upholding the law, and as result, crime on the streets has escalated.
“It’s told from the start it's not a priority,” O’Neill impressed. “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.”
In fact, the authority of police officers to get their job done has been eroded by Seattle officials, who have adopted leftist politics pushed by anti-police movements such as Black Lives Matter (BLM) to make cops powerless on the streets.
“O’Neill says city leaders are sending the message that officers cannot be proactive about policing and that they are allowing certain crimes to go on without accountability,” Kim explained. “The union has been in contract negotiations for the last three and half years and officers have not received a pay increase during that time.”
Even though it has been argued that relatively low pay in the expensive city is partly to blame for the exodus, O’Neill made it clear that city politics is the main driving factor.
“I’ve been here since 1980, [and] I’ve never seen the city in the condition it is in,” the police advocate stressed. “It’s because it’s been allowed on many levels.”
O’Neill also mentioned how upset a large number of officers are about the city’s rejection of tough-on-crime Interim Police Chief Carmen Best as Seattle’s new chief of police.
"When comments are made that the reason we need an outside chief is to change the culture, that is insulting, and that's a slap in the face of each and every officer who serves," O'Neill insisted.
Discounting the exodus
However, in an attempt to defend those who pay their salary, representatives of the SPD said they would not call the department’s number of departures this year a “mass exodus,” arguing that new recruits have been able to fill many of the vacant spots.
“According to police data, 79 officers left the force in 2017, but the agency was able to recruit 102 new officers,” TheBlaze reported. “In 2017, there were 1,144 sworn police officers working in Seattle.”
Yet the fact that the number of new officers on the streets has not kept up with the pace of Seattle’s ever-growing population was avoided, with SPD Human Resources Director Mike Fields changing the topic to commend his department for implementing affirmative action to diversify its police force.
"The last three years have been the best three years as far as hiring for numbers, racial diversity and the number of women," Fields claimed, according to King5 News, before indicating that Seattle is suffering from a lack of qualified recruits to fill the void. "We are hiring all the quality candidates we can."
But officers being fed up with city politics can be evidenced by groups of them leaving the department to work in less politicized government jobs.
“Another [SPD] source said he knew of five officers from one precinct who left the department to work for the Port of Seattle,” King 5’s Elisa Hahn informed.
But fields attempted to explain away the mass exodus by giving some of the general reasons frequently given for leaving one’s job to avoid backlash.
"It's everything from, 'My wife got a job in another city,' to, 'It's closer for me to work for Kent since I live in Kent,'" Fields insisted.
However, after being asked about the number of officers who give SPD a reason for leaving, he admitted that most did not provide such information.
"Less than half," Fields estimated.