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Chief Diaz Statement on Current Staffing Crisis

I wanted to provide you with a staffing update as we enter the second half of the year. The Seattle Police Department has seen a reduction of 402 officers/detectives deployable staff since 2019. These losses have been felt in every corner of SPD at a time when homicides and incidents of gunfire are on the rise in our city.  

Recent news coverage over our department’s staffing issues has focused on the Sexual Assault Unit (SAU). Sexual violence is one of the most serious crimes our department investigates, and when I learned of staffing concerns in SAU in April, I immediately began work to bolster the unit with additional detectives, as well as non-police staff who provide support to victims of sexual violence. I was able to ensure the Investigations Bureau rapidly shifted an additional investigator to the unit, brought in support staff to SAU to process cases sent to prosecutors, and utilized skilled detectives in other units to aid in addressing SAU’s caseload. I also engaged with organizations doing important work with survivors of sexual assault in our region, which led to expanded outreach by the city’s Victim Support Team, to help survivors work through their trauma. 

We will continue to build on that work, despite the many challenges that remain ahead. In 2019 we had 234 detectives. Three years later, we have 134. 

In Patrol, officers are called on every day to augment low-staff levels across the city’s five precincts. The department is also routinely called on to assist in the safety, security, and traffic control around major sporting and arts events in our city. SPD continues to actively recruit and hire excellent law enforcement officers, but we forecast it will take approximately five to ten years to return our staffing to pre-2020 levels. 

I am thankful to our employees who have risen to meet our many challenges, working extra shifts and assisting colleagues in complex and necessary casework. They are working hard to keep our city safe. Our department will continue to carefully examine its use of limited resources. We know we must bring every crime victim and survivor the justice they deserve. 

UPDATE 6/23/22:

To all members of our community:

I want you to know, the Seattle Police Department is 100% committed to bringing all victims of sexual assault justice, and giving them ALL a voice.

To that end, SPD is committed to the following:

  • Ensuring that every report is screened by a sworn SPD supervisor for assignment to a follow up detective, or referral to Victim Support.
  • Following up with the Seattle Department of Human Services to ensure that every victim is contacted by the City’s Victim Support Team.
  • Collaborating with community and City partners to increase capacity of social services to ensure victims are provided the support they need.
  • While staffing challenges continue to present significant challenges across all areas of our operations, SPD is consulting with an outside auditor to identify any inefficiencies in SPD’s Sexual Assault Unit to ensure that we align with best practices in policy, training, and investigation of sexual assault cases.
  • While the training requirements and unique skillsets required of SAU positions limit the candidate pool for assignment, we have identified an additional detective who will be added to SAU this month.

I acknowledge the pain and trauma all victims of sexually motivated crimes endure, and I want you to know, SPD hears the concerns of the community and is dedicated to ensuring justice for ALL victims.

If you are reporting a sexual assault, please do NOT call the non-emergency line; call 911. With the transfer of 911 to the new Community Safety and Communications Center, SPD does not have access to the non-emergency line, which is not always staffed. We want to make sure we are not missing any calls, and we are committed to ensuring every victim’s voice is heard.

Thank you.