Seattle closed out the month of August with 11 homicides, setting the city on track to break a 25-year record high in deadly shootings, police say.
The city grabbed the national spotlight in 2020 when former Mayor Jenny Durkan proposed a $76 million cut to police funding, according to Seattle P-I. “Defund the police” became the battle cry of scores of protestors in the city following the death of George Floyd, and city leaders eventually made cuts to the department’s budget, Reuters reported. A 7-1 vote by the city council fell far short of protestors’ demands and Durkan’s proposal but still slashed the department’s budget by $3.5 million and invested $17 million in community safety programs, the outlet noted. The city council later cut the 2021 budget by $35.6 million (9%) from 2019 and in December 2021 cut police funding in the 2022 budget by $7 million, the Wall Street Journal reported. (RELATED: Seattle Implodes After Defunding The Police)
In 2020, Seattle recorded 53 homicides, the highest in 26 years, according to King 5. 2021 saw a slight decrease with 42 recorded homicides, but there have been 27 homicides so far in 2022, King 5 reported. This puts Seattle on pace to break yet another record in fatal shootings, police say. There were four homicides in just five days in August, Seattle Interim Police Chief Adrian Diaz said. “Seattle has reached a heartbreaking milestone. So far this year, SPD officers have responded to as many homicides in the past 8 months as there were in all of 2021. At this rate, we could easily see more homicides this year than there were in 2020, which broke a nearly 30-year homicide record at 53.” Police have also seen a 32% increase in shots fired events compared to this time last year. So far in 2022 there have been 513 shots fired events compared to 391 in 2021.
The city’s police chief followed his statistics report with a call for more police officers, reflective of a shortage in police nationwide. Retirements are up, resignations are up and recruitment is down, the National Fraternal Order of Police’s Joe Gamaldi told Newsmax. Politicians and the media have “burned down the institution of policing, and now we’re just living in the ashes,” Gamaldi said. Low recruitment leaves fewer officers to respond to calls and patrol the streets, Gamaldi said. (RELATED: Former Seattle Police Chief Says ‘Defund The Police’ Movement ‘Makes People So Demoralized’)
Other cities across the country are also facing police shortages. In Philadelphia, 800 police are slated to leave the department in the next few years, Fox News reported. The department is already operating at 20% below its target staff levels, according to Fox News. Democrat-run Chicago likewise is short on officers and needs roughly 1,100 new policemen, CBS News found.
Seattle also finds itself in the midst of a recruiting crisis and recently recorded a 30-year low in officers, according to King 5. Mayor Bruce Harrell and Police Chief Diaz earlier this summer announced a plan to hire new officers, including hiring incentives and relocation reimbursement, the outlet reported. “We cannot deliver the effective public safety, swift response times, and thorough investigations our communities deserve without a well-staffed and well-trained police department,” Harrell said.
As the SPD remains short on officers, the city copes with a record-breaking August for homicides, according to Fox News. The city averaged around three homicides every August between 2008 and 2021, but in August of 2022, there was a 267% increase compared to the previous 14-year average, Fox News found.