SEATTLE (NewsNation Now) — The Seattle Police Department is calling the departures of more than 200 officers since last year a “staffing crisis,” and it’s one that has pitted politicians, activists and police against each other in the Emerald City.
Mike Solan is the president of the Seattle Police Officers Guild, an organization representing more than 1,300 officers — and shrinking.
“I call it not just a public safety crisis. I call it a community crisis,” said Solan. “We’ve already lost 266, and counting, officers since George Floyd, for a city that its staffing levels are the same if not less than they were in the 1980s.”
The Seattle Police have been operating under a consent decree since 2012 whereby the U.S. Justice Department oversees police reform in a city familiar with issues of biased policing and excessive force.
In the wake of the unrest across the country, and in Seattle last year, the police guild issued an open letter saying of the George Floyd murder that “we will not let this tragedy define our noble profession.”
Still, activists have said that it does, at least in part, define policing, and that has forced many of these officers off the force.
“It’s not just about a few bad apples that spoil the bunch,” said Sakara Remmu, founder of the Black Lives Matter Alliance in Washington state. “Policing is broken in Seattle, in the state of Washington, and across the nation, and the people are the needle in making a change. We can’t take full credit or full blame for what’s happening with the Seattle Police Department. The issues in the Seattle Police Department are generations in the making.”
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Solan pushes back on that, saying that there had been responsible departmental reform leading up to the unrest in 2020.
“The mayor and the president of the city council — just days before George Floyd — publicly touted this agency as being the model police agency in reform,” said Solan.
To him, he sees it as a betrayal from officials in Seattle that became the turning point.
“They didn’t show any public concern or support for the people that they were just applauding as being the model of reform,” said Solan. “To me, that’s striking. And that’s what led to this staffing crisis we’re in.”
NewsNation has reached out to Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz, both of whom repeatedly declined to speak with us about departures in the department.
“If they would just lead and be truthful with what they said, then we perhaps wouldn’t have a staffing crisis that we have,” said Solan.