I recently had an opportunity to play a card I had been holding for a few weeks. I waited until a former Seattle police officer I know grumbled* again about his current job. So I asked, “I’ll bet you really wish you still had your old job back at the Seattle Police department.
This triggered a five minute monologue which began with “Absolutely not!” on the consequences of the political situation in regards to police in general and Seattle and surrounding areas in specific. He described it as “cascading failures”. Here is a synopsis of what he told me:
As of a couple years ago there were about 1350 people in SPD which was considered significantly understaffed. This number included support staff and rookies patrol officers up through to the captain level.
SPD is currently losing hundreds of people via retirement and them finding different jobs. Officers that have 20+ years on the job can’t take their pensions yet (I think he said they have to be 53 years old before they can do that) but they can quit and still get their full pension when they do cross the age threshold. Replacements are nearly impossible to get. Not because of defunding, but because no one wants those jobs. Detectives and other high skill areas are especially hard hit because those are the people most likely to have 20+ years on the job.
Some skill areas have mutual aid packs with surrounding areas. But while the surrounding areas have not had as severe political stress as SPD they have been affected. The mutual aid packs increase the stress on the surrounding areas and is causing people to leave their law enforcement positions there as well. It’s a cascading system of failure that affects the entire area.
Even some rural counties are pushing people out of law enforcement. One such country recently removed all U.S. flags from their patrol cars. This was to avoid offending anyone.**
SPD is rapidly approaching the situation where when you call 911 the only time someone will show up is if there is a life and death situation.
I’m now extrapolating from his observations.
If the police only show up for life and death situations and detectives are among the skills sets hardest hit by personal shortages then law enforcement protection of property is going to asymptotically approach zero. If a cold body with no obvious signs of foul play and/or no hot leads is found it will essentially ignored. Even clear murder cases will have low closure rates. Assault and battery will be ignored. Without justice for the victims of violent crimes and reduced odds of being punished self administered “justice” will become common.
These cascading law enforcement failures will trigger other cascading failures. This is city killer type stuff. Seattle is highly dependent upon high tech money. Most of those jobs can be performed by people 100s of miles away as easily as they can be performed by people within commuting distance. People and companies will leave the immediate area in droves. The property values, and all tax bases will crash. City services of all types will suffer. This could create Detroit like conditions within a few years.
* I think, overall, he actually likes his job. He just likes to grumble about things.
** I expect the people insisting the flags be removed are bewildered as to how the police could have a “real” issue with this. This probably extends to at least some of my readers.
A significant number police are former, and even current reserve, military. The U.S. flag is more than a piece of red, white, and blue colored cloth to members of the U.S. military. I have never been in the military and I only sort of understood this. A former Army Ranger described the depth of that meaning when he told me that if he were on the jury of someone accused of murdering a person who was burning a U.S. flag he would not vote to convict even if there numerous witnesses and video of the event, fingerprints in the neck bruises, and matching shoe prints in the blood. He wouldn’t kill someone burning a U.S. flag. But he could understand why someone would.