An additional 34 police officers have exited the Seattle Police Department since October as the city council voted to slash the police budget for a second time.
According to Jason Rantz of KTTH-TV, the latest exodus brings the total number of separations since the start of this year to a historic high of 144, with “scores of other [officers] still applying elsewhere.” Rantz said rumors are swirling internally that separations could hit 200 by the year’s end.
The news comes as the Seattle City Council approved the city’s 2021 budget on Monday, in a move that shrank police department funding by 18%, KING-TV reported. The budget cuts are expected to affect overtime pay and training while leaving dozens of vacant jobs unfilled and moving 911 dispatchers and parking enforcement out of the department’s jurisdiction.
“I am sad and yet, I’m not surprised that many of the great human beings that do the job of policing in Seattle are still leaving SPD at an alarming rate,” Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG) President Mike Solan told KTTH-TV. “It saddens me because I’m witnessing a professional police agency revered by many fall victim to radical activism that is swallowing Seattle.”
Under the new budget, millions of dollars that previously funded the police department will now go to community programs. Activists applauded the new budget, though it fell far short of their goal of cutting police funding by 50%.
“These are all really exciting things that have been won after many, many years of mobilizing and partnering together,” said Nikkita Oliver, a prominent local activist. “They’ve been won because of the uprising and defense of black lives, and the many people who put their feet to the ground, who have made calls, sent emails, and organized their communities.”
Councilwoman Lisa Herbold, who originally campaigned on hiring more officers, said, “Our work to shift the public safety response away from police, is a beginning to address our nation’s shame in that history of policing.”
In response, Solan called the city council “naïve” and argued the budget cuts would ultimately make the city even less safe.
“You’re going to see crime rise, we’re already seeing increased homicide rates that we haven’t seen in decades,” he said.
The Seattle Police Department is now dangerously understaffed. The number of deployable officers now sits at approximately 1,200, which is lower than it was in the 1990s despite the population increasing by 44% since then. According to KTTH-TV, the mayor’s office said in the coming months that number could drop even further, to 1,072.