At least 41 cops have left the Seattle Police Department this year, many of them reportedly citing frustration with the city’s politics and a perceived lack of support from local officials.
Though documents showed some officers left the force due to retirement, a source in the department told Q13 FOX some 20 officers left and sought employment at other law enforcement agencies.
The source also said younger officers “don’t feel appreciated” and the number of those leaving who felt “frustrated over city politics is higher than usual.”
The Seattle Police Guild, the police labor union, which includes “all of the officers and sergeants on the Seattle Police Department,” according to its website, called the departures a “mass exodus” that would affect safety.
“Less officers on the streets, less safe for the citizens — and when you have all these officers you have invested all this money in and they are leaving for Tacoma, Olympia, Pierce County and Snohomish County,” Seattle Police Officers Guild Vice President Richard O’Neill said.
He added: “I have never seen the number of officers who are leaving and the way they are leaving.”
As of 2017, there were 1,444 sworn officers on the force, according to the city.
O’Neill said many officers felt a lack of support from city officials.
“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 said.
The union cited Mike O’Brien and Kshama Sawant, two Seattle City Council members, as being especially critical of law enforcement.
“A city council member [Sawant] can call two police officers ‘murderers’ and the city pays for her legal fees,” a source told MyNorthwest.com, referring to a fatal 2016 police-involved shooting.
The Seattle Police Guild said officers have not received a pay raise in three years due to contract negotiations. But O’Neill said the officers didn’t leave because of the money issues — they just became fed up with Seattle politics.
“I’ve been here since 1980, I’ve never seen the city in the condition it is in. It’s because it’s been allowed on many levels,” O’Neill said.
The Seattle Police Department struck a different tone, saying it would not characterize the departures as a “mass exodus” and noted the department was continuing to recruit officers, including women and minority candidates.
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office released a statement regarding the union’s comments.
“Few issues are more important than public safety and keeping our families safe, and our officers are being asked to do more in our rapidly changing community,” the statement said. “…The Mayor will continue to work closely with SPD and our officers to ensure they have the resources necessary to maintain their safety and the safety of our community.”