After deadly weekend, Seattle's mayor says it's time to rebuild police force that has lost 250 officers

There were four people killed in Seattle early Sunday, plus at least six more injured in unconnected shootings. That was in addition to another deadly shooting that happened Friday night bringing the weekend total to five deaths.

The shootings continue an ongoing uptick in gun violence that’s already killed or wounded more than 200 people in King County so far this year. The unrelated shootings Sunday morning occurred in the Belltown, Pioneer Square, Chinatown International District and Capitol Hill neighborhoods.

Today Mayor Jenny Durkan gave a press conference about the weekend violence in which she pointed out that lack of police staffing was part of the problem. “Over the past 17 months the Seattle Police Department has lost 250 police officers,” Durkan said. She continued, “We’re on path to losing 300 officers. We are creating meaningful alternatives but as I said last year the city has an obligation to still continue constitutional policing and respond to 911 calls.

“Not unexpected, losing these number of officers, when city leaders talk about cutting the department by 50 percent. You will lose employees. Families need security. Workers, even police officers, need working conditions that support them. We cannot just cut. We need a plan.”

Durkan went on to say that next month she would submit plans to the city council to recruit more police officers to make up for those the city has lost. After she spoke, Police Chief Diaz also had some comments.

“Our city is experiencing the highest number of shots fired in recent history and just a few weeks ago we had over two dozen shots fired in a week alone,” Chief Diaz said. He said it represents a 40% increase in shots fired compared to last year. The city has also seen a 100% increase in drive-by shootings.

Then he repeated what Mayor Durkan had said noting the city was down nearly 300 officers in the past two years. He noted that five days a week officers are only able to respond to priority one 911 calls, meaning a call where there is an imminent threat of violence.

“I need more officers,” Diaz said. He said he can work on hiring but that it requires “making it clear to officers, current and prospective…that they will have our support, financially and otherwise, to do this job well and know they will not be laid off due to budget cuts.” In other words, the city needs to reject the defund the police nonsense being pushed by Black Lives Matter.

Earlier today the Post published a piece by Megan McArdle making the case that a decline in officers and rising crime creates a vicious cycle where fewer people are held accountable:

a higher crime rate makes further crimes even more likely — the aforementioned vicious circle. Conversely, lowering the crime rate can create a virtuous cycle in which committing crime becomes less attractive.

Those vicious or virtuous cycles can be further exacerbated by other factors. When crime is high, people may not even bother telling the police; when I was growing up in New York City, few people bothered reporting crimes unless they involved grievous bodily harm or needed to be claimed on insurance. Deprived of information about the community, police become even less effective…

The kinds of alternative strategies that Democrats, including our mayor, like to talk up — from housing supports to pilot programs to assisting recently released inmates — may help. But in the short term, there is no substitute for police on the street to deter crime and track down any offenders. And if we don’t take care of the short term, we’ll find it much harder to handle the long run.

It seems to me that Seattle has been learning that lesson the hard way since the CHOP was set up last year. Hiring more officers is a good idea but as Chief Diaz points out, you can only do that if you can convince the prospects that the city has their back. I’m not sure the city can do that given the current member of the City Council.

Here’s a local news report on the violence. Below that is the full press conference featuring Mayor Durkan and Chief Diaz.