A couple of years ago, a major regional medical clinic leader announced his support for a local tax hike to beef up the city’s police force and provide cops with better training and capabilities. His rational was two-fold: the clinic needed police to augment its security and good public safety attracted the best staff.
Any Realtor will tell you people want good schools and safe neighborhoods. They want police who can respond quickly to emergency calls and investigate crimes.
Today, the persistent rioting in cities such as Seattle and Portland has police focused on stopping destruction, burning and ransacking while more traditional police calls go unanswered.
London’s Daily Mail reported last August: “More than 60 Portland 911 calls go unanswered overnight as police respond to “violent, tumultuous” rioting where protesters threw “softball-sized” rocks and glass bottles at officers. Call types ranged from theft, vandalism, suspicious activity, hazards, hit and run, burglary, violation of restraining order, alarms, stolen cars, harassment and many others.
To adequately respond to rioting and conduct normal policing, Seattle interim Police Chief Adrian Diaz told KTTH radio’s Jason Rantz that his police department needs 1,400 deployable officers. However, Seattle’s police force is shrinking and could get smaller if the City Council chops the department’s budget by $50 million.
“At least 118 officers have separated from the force in 2020, with the bulk leaving after the Seattle City Council embraced radical activists pushing to defund the police. Separations are all-inclusive, including resignations (including lateral-moves to other agencies) and retirements,” Rantz added.
Seattle, which is left with just over 1,200 officers, now has one of the lowest ratios of cops to citizens of major U.S. cities, with 65 officers per 100,000 residents, the Washington Free Beacon reports. Seattle Police Department is staffed at lower levels than it was in 1990, even though its population has increased by 44 percent. “And crime is surging, with a reportedly 60 percent year-over-year increase in homicides,” Rantz reported Oct. 16.
The situation will worsen under police defunding proposals, Rantz predicts. “The mayor’s office believes the number of deployable staff could drop to 1,072 officers if the trends and hiring freeze continues, along with the council’s vote to fire 70 officers.” Because police are short-handed, officers are working lots of overtime. According to data obtained by Portland’s KATU news, the Portland Police Bureau spent over $6.9 million in overtime for June and July, which is a 200 percent increase compared to the same period last year.
Exhaustion is a problem. “I also need officers that we can routinely rotate out when you have officers that had to deal with demonstrations on a nightly basis with very little time off,” Diaz added. “And the more stress we put on those officers, it can create some adverse effects.”
These numbers don’t tell the whole picture, Rantz concluded. “Sources reveal that many officers are using sick time at higher than normal rates. Many of them are looking for other jobs in different agencies.” For example, last August neighboring Pierce County lifted its hiring freeze to add two dozen deputies to the sheriff’s department.
Injuries also are mounting. For example, nearly 60 Seattle police officers were injured during July weekend clashes with explosive-hurling anti-cop demonstrators, according to the department — which released photos and body-camera footage of the carnage.
Something has to give and that something has been answering 911 calls and routine policing. If that trend persists, it will ruin cities making them unsafe and unappealing. People and businesses will leave.
Pressing police defunding is a bad idea, especially as law enforcement leaders are bracing for the potential of heightened civil unrest following the presidential elections.
Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He recently retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and now lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at theBrunells@msn.com.