Seattle has put sexual assault cases on the back burner because it lacks officers (one guess why)

A Seattle NPR affiliate reported last week that police in Seattle have all but stopped investigating sexual assault and even rape.

In the last year, Seattle Police have forwarded far fewer sex assault cases to the King County Prosecutor’s Office. Meanwhile, arrests for sex crimes involving adults and children have plummeted: This year so far, 1.6% of cases investigated by the sexual assault and child abuse unit have resulted in an arrest, down from 14% in 2019…

In March, outside of arrests, not a single sexual assault case involving an adult victim was assigned to a detective, according to documentation provided by a Seattle Police employee.

“The Seattle Police Department sexual assault unit is not at all investigating adult sexual assault reports or cases unless there was an arrest,” said one source inside the Seattle Police Department.


This is obviously unacceptable. Why is the city in this terrible situation? The words “defund the police” do not appear in the story but that’s clearly what it’s about.

The Seattle Police Department says there are fewer officers to investigate these crimes. The two anonymous Seattle Police employees agreed that employee retention is part of the problem; 16% of Seattle officers are on leave. Others have left permanently…

The staffing challenges within the specialty teams of the Seattle Police Department are driven by the lack of active police staffing, Jamie Housen, spokesperson for Mayor Harrell, said by email. He said Harrell has often called for Seattle Police staffing to be restored…

The number of Seattle police officers has gone down since 2019, said Greg Doss, fiscal and policy analyst with the City of Seattle.

The story includes this graph showing the decline in the number of officers in Seattle. These figures come from December of each year. So at the end of 2019 there were 1281 officers but by the end of 2020 it was down to 1094 and by the end of last year just 958.

The story points out that the number of officers on extended leave refers to officers who are essentially using up all of their accumulated leave prior to resigning or retiring. So these officers are technically still on the force but they are probably on their way out the door.


They key point, which again doesn’t really get mentioned in this story, is that none of this is a surprise. In fact, this decline was manufactured by defund the police activists and their supporters on the city council. In the summer of 2020, a majority of the city council said they were on board with a 50% cut in the police budget.

“The status quo is no longer acceptable,” Council President Lorena Gonzalez said Thursday, adding that while she previously believed in police reform, she now believes in rebuilding. “We have to take away the things that no longer and should have never belonged to law enforcement in the first place,” she said.

It was a sentiment echoed by other council members, including budget Chair Teresa Mosqueda…

“When millions of people took to the streets to protest excessive use of force and police violence, they were met with excessive use of force and police violence in Seattle and around the country, proving that it’s not just about a few bad actors,” Mosqueda said. “It is the institution of policing itself that must be dismantled.”

Even at the time, Police Chief Carmen Best warned that Councilmember Mosqueda, “needs to think about the fact that public safety and the budget are intertwined.” Chief Best wound up resigning and while a 50% cut didn’t happen the council did eventually get a 20% cut. The decision by the council would have been unanimous except that socialist council member Kshama Sawant voted against it (she wanted 50%).


The Seattle City Council voted Monday to cut almost 20% of the Seattle Police Department’s budget — including a last-minute $2 million reduction that could slow future hiring of new officers…

The council made its cuts to the police department as part of its overall 2021 budget, which it passed Monday afternoon, 8-1. Councilmember Kshama Sawant voted against, as she has done every year since taking office in 2014.

And predictably, SPD officers got the message and started to leave in droves. The new police chief announced that he needed more officers last July but he made it clear that hiring them would require convincing prospective officers that the city would have their backs.

“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.”

But by the time the council started working on the next budget in the fall of 2021 it was clear that wasn’t the case. Even the Seattle Times editorial page was warning the council against continuing down that road.

The Seattle City Council’s headlong dash to defund police is irresponsible, destabilizing — and ongoing. A Sept. 13 council vote to further chisel away at the police budget perpetuates a malignant trend that is making Seattle a more dangerous place to live and work.

A year after council budget-cutting and tinkering with department structure led to Chief Carmen Best’s departure, almost 300 officers and detectives have followed her out the door. Seven of the council’s nine members pledged in July 2020 to take away at least half the department’s funding and reimagine public safety around fewer police interventions. But that goal failed to account for the city’s real need to ensure public safety. This is basic governance. The council has failed to provide a responsible transition and must be held accountable…

For the past year, police response times to all levels of 911 calls have been rising. The median response to top-priority calls — a category including shootings, assaults and other life-threatening situations — for 2021 through this July registered at 7.3 minutes. That’s more than 10% slower than any year of the last decade.


Mayor Jenny Durkan, who had previously welcomed the CHAZ/CHOP before realizing it was a disaster, warned the council they needed to reverse course:

“City’s Council’s previous promise to defund SPD by 50%, their treatment of Chief Best and their previous layoff budget led to an exodus of 325 officers from SPD in the last two years. Multiple plans to address hiring and retention proposed by Chief Diaz and I have been repeatedly rejected by a majority of Council. And just yesterday, another Councilmember proposed blocking my emergency hiring proposal that has already generated a tenfold increase in applications to 911 dispatch positions in Seattle. Continued cuts to SPD and underfunding the 911 center are not a plan for true public safety.

By October of last year, the SPD announced a stage three emergency. That means that detectives and other officers who aren’t on patrol are answering 911 calls.

The SPD staffing crisis has become so dire, police union president Mike Solan is warning about what’s next, as the department mobilizes to “Stage 3″—an emergency scenario because of a shortage of officers.

“We can’t afford to lose one, that’s how desperate we are to hold onto to people,” said Solan. “If we lose more officers the public safety situation will become that much more untenable here.”


So here we are in 2022 and as predicted the public safety situation has become untenable. The city lacks enough officers to investigate sexual assault cases. Maybe no one predicted this specific outcome but many warnings were given multiple times over the past 20 months that public safety was going to suffer because of the lack of staffing. That’s what happened. The predictions were correct. The defund the police supporters on the city council put the city in this position. They should be the ones answering for this mess.

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